September 1, 2013 – Labor Day Chapel – Russ Campbell

Member Russ Campbell shared with us his take on Work on this Labor Day.  He recalled that in 2002 President Bush called on Americans to commit at least 2 years or 4000 hours over the rest of their lifetime to the service of their neighbors, which is the equivalent of 2 years of 40 hour work weeks.  To listen to Russ’s talk click here.

If you would prefer to read the sermon you can read it here:

What do you call work?
(chapter 2, Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, in the context of whitewashing the fence)

4000 hours

In his January 29, 2002 State of the Union Address, President Bush called on Americans to commit at least two years or 4,000 hours over the rest of their lifetimes to the service of their neighbors and their nation. 4000 hours is two years of 40 hour weeks, and is motivated as two years in the Army, or the Peace Corps, or Americorps, or the ilk.

I did not spend two years in the Army, or the Peace Corps, or Americorp, or the ilk, so I will talk about my father who spent more than two years in the Army during World War II. I do not know everything he did in the army, but I will relate three of his war stories.

When he was in Hawaii awaiting being shipped to action, his orders were lost. This did not bother him, since he was still getting room and board from the army. Unfortunately one of his men inquired as to why he had not gotten paid, and they figured out that my father’s unit should have already shipped out. The misplaced orders spared my father some nasty action, but he saw plenty of nasty action later. The point is that my father was not excited about being in the army, and was perfectly happy to avoid action.

Before my father saw action, they took him out on a boat to observe an operation. My father told them he really would not learn much from staying on the boat, so they let him take part in the action. Suffice it to say that the commander of the operation was replaced in the middle

of the operation, which was not a common practice, because the operation was such a disaster. Yes my father learned that you never volunteer for anything in the army, but the point of this story is, that if he was going to do something, he wanted the experience to do it right.

Yes my father survived the war, but he did get a purple heart. While he was waiting to be evacuated because of his wound, his commander came in with a more serious wound and they ripped the evacuation tag off my father because they needed someone to lead the troops. My father once remarked that there were times in the army when he was living off morphine. The point of this story (although it was not my father’s choice in this instance) is that he did what had to be done.

This is not a Veteran’s Day talk, and I am not a veteran, and I would be happy if we did not have wars that produce veteran’s. I am a mathematician, and with my great mathematical skills I shall observe that 4000 is not just 2 years of 40 hours a week, but also 40 years of 2 hours a week. My father also put in 4000 hours of service while he was working. In the boy scouts he did not attend the weekly meetings, but was the “outdoor committee man” who stayed overnight on the weekend campouts. Each weekend involved 25 hours not counting the time sleeping, hence 4 weekends a year entailed the 100 hours of 2 hours a week. He was not active in boy scouts for 40 years (perhaps 10), but he also taught Sunday school, served on the church board, was an officer of our property owners association, and served on the town personnel board,
among other civic activities.

Let me clarify that I am talking about activities that provided benefit to many people other than his children. If you drive (perhaps in a carpool) your children to soccer practice, that is good, but it is not filling the need that coaching the soccer team does. If you eat at a pancake breakfast, you are supporting the cause which is selling the tickets, but you are doing much more when you help cook the pancakes.

Returning to the the myriad insights that mathematics provides, 4000 is also equal to 4 hours a week for 20 years. My father did not live 20 years after he retired, but that is not the point. The point is that he still served the community. He still served on occasion as an officer

of the property owner’s association. In his bridge group, he took responsibility for making sure people were available to play, and the venue was available. He ran the sailing races which my brothers, but also others, participated in. He was always available to give a hand when needed.

Another interpretation of 4 hours a week for 20 years is the first 20 years of our lives before we begin our career. I do not know what my father did during his first 20 years, but I know that he saw to it that we did our share during our first 20 years. Whether a neighborhood or church cleanup, we were there, and we noticed that many of our friends were not. We even went out of town. For those of you who are not East Coast Universalists, the Clara Barton and Joslin camps are summer camps for diabetic girls and boys, respectively, which were affiliated in some
manner with the Universalist Church. We went to the Joslin camp annual cleanup, which also provided an opportunity to explain to us a little bit about what living with diabetes was like.

I would like to finish the personal part of this talk with a story about a neighbor and my brother. The neighbor lived on our street, but half a mile away. I did go to school with her daughter, but did not really know the neighbor. Late in life I got so I recognized her, but would see her perhaps once a year in passing. One summer when I was home and standing in my front yard, she was driving by and stopped and told me to get in and help her return some chairs.

My brother did spend two years in the army (actually 18 months), and later spent several years working as an ex patriate. He then decided to take a couple of years off to do some reading, and that two years stretched into about 20 until there was no point in his reentering the workforce. My mother changed his sheets and did his laundry until she could no longer climb the stairs. He would sometimes complain about his back.

The above neighbor mentioned to her neighbor (the latter neighbor knew my brother much better than the former) that she had asked my brother to help her move a bureau, and the latter neighbor responded ‘did he do it?’ The former answered ‘of course’. The point of this is twofold: first, if you need help ask, and help will be provided; second, although you may not want to do it, you should do what needs to be done.

I hope you are convinced that 4000 hours of service to your neighbors and nation is reasonable. Many of you, like my father, have done over 4000 hours in your youth, in a two year period, during your career, and in your retirement; providing a grand total that overwhelms others like me, who may only cumulate 4000 hours over all the periods of their life combined. I got a head start during my youth, and have served on the church and arts support boards. I usher at the Gallagher Bluedorn. Yes I get to see shows for free, but some of them are dreadful in my opinion, and all I get to enjoy is the smiles of patrons (which indeed provides a reward for my service). I am sure service in my retirement will put me over 4000 hours if I have not attained that before I retire.

Sermons are not things people remember, musicals are, so I would like to give you lyrics from two musicals and a light opera to help you remember this talk.

From Mary Poppins: In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP – the job’s a game!
If you remember this you will remember that helping out your fellow man does not need to be dreadful, it is often a pleasure.

From the Gondoliers:
And the culminating pleasure
That we treasure beyond measure
Is the gratifying feeling that our duty has been done!
I chose this because my father enjoyed Gilbert and Sullivan, but also because helping someone often gives greater pleasure after the fact than while you are doing it.

From my Fair Lady:
The Lord above made man to help is neighbor,
No matter where, on land, or sea, or foam.
The Lord above made man to help his neighbor-but
With a little bit of luck, With a little bit of luck,
When he comes around you won’t be home!

I do not consider this the philosophy of a lazy freeloader. My father was happy when his orders were lost, but he did not shirk his duty. As long as you help when you are home, you do not need to wait at home for someone to come around.

I must include a final quote because there should be a Biblical quote in a sermon, and working in Wright Hall on the UNI campus I should include the quote which is above one of the doors to that building.

From Nehemiah 4:6, “For the people had a mind to work”. Biblical interpretation is difficult, so I invite you to read Nehemiah, but as I interpret the passage, repairing the wall of Jerusalem was a futile activity. But because the people had a mind to work, they succeeded in repairing the wall. Dedicated work can overcome great obstacles. It is the same sentiment expressed in the song ‘High Hopes’ where an ant moves a rubber tree plant and a ram punches a hole in a dam.

The Glow Within
Berton Braley

Oh, you gotta get a glory in the work you do,
A Hallelujah chorus in the heart of you.
Paint or tell a story, sing or shovel coal
But you gotta get a glory or the job lacks soul.

The great, whose shining tabors make our pulses throb.
Were men who got a glory in their daily job.
The battle might be gory, and the odds unfair
But the men who got a glory never knew despair.

To those who get a glory it is like the sun,
And you can see it glowing through the work they’ve done,
For fame is transitory, riches fade away.
But when you get a glory it is there to stay.

— Russ Campbell, 9/1/2013

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