Our efforts do have purpose

I visited with my 93-year-old grandfather over the break and was enlightened by him-not by his wisdom, but by his failure.

I finally had a chance to read some of the book he has been working on for the past 50 years about how labor unions are ruining the country.

My grandfather was an electrician in a magnesium plant during World War II and the Hanford Project, which participated in building the atomic bomb. He is proud of his participation in the war effort, but resents the ways his union slowed work down.

His book is a narrative explaining how the union encouraged a lazy, inefficient and wasteful work environment on the job. A few times, the workers were even encouraged to strike for better pay or better conditions, despite their poor productivity.

The idea of men being lazy or even striking when being paid above average wages while other men were being killed in combat greatly disturbed my grandfather.

Despite the interesting subject, his book really isn’t very good. He’s no Ernest Hemingway, and not very many people are interested in how labor unions wasted money 60 years ago.

No matter how hard my dad and uncle try to convince him that there’s no market for his book, he’s sure that some right-wing group will publish his expos.

Because his eyesight is gone, my grandfather has to rely on other people to type letters to publishers asking them to read his 140-page manuscript written with a typewriter. Everyone is tired of helping him.

It is so sad to think of a man spending 50 years writing a book that will never be published. He has so much to say, yet nobody wants to read it.

The irony is that his book is a wonderful personal history about life as an electrician working on government war projects. He talks about living in tent towns, what people did for fun after work, what they did with their money and what it was like trying to guess what they were building at Hanford.

Anyone interested in the history of these places, the history of these projects or the history of our family would find my grandfather’s book a real treasure.

This experience made me realize that any amount of work done with a great deal of passion, effort and care will be of worth, even if it isn’t valued for the reasons we would like it to be.

Sometimes school feels a little futile. We put so much work into papers we write and projects we do and for what? A report card that no one will ever see? A degree that doesn’t guarantee anything?

Students sometimes wonder if all the effort is really worth it. Well, after visiting with my grandfather, I’m now convinced that hard work is always worth something.

Save everything you put a lot of yourself into. Maybe the only people who will ever appreciate the painting you worked so hard on or the paper you drafted so many times will be your family. But to your family, those projects might be priceless.

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