The Dignity of Manual labour
My beloved father and mother introduced me to hard work at the very beginning of my life.
l learnt to wake up at 3.00 a.m. in order to heat up the water for my father to take a bath, since he regularly took a bath around 3.30am when he was at home. When l had got his water ready, l would begin to grate cocoyams and pound the bananas that were to be mixed with cassava for the making of “accra”. This had to be completed before 5am. At 5am mother came and began the frying of the “accra.” l then did some other work in the house. At 6.00 it was time for Family Worship which father led when he was at home, or mother led when father was away from home. At 6.30 l was ready to jump into the streets and start the selling of the “accra.” l stopped selling between 7.15 and 7.30 and at 8.00 l was in school.
Our primary school closed at 2.00 pm. l normally went home immediately, had lunch and off l went to the cocoyam, yam, maize or beans farm (for we cultivated most of the food we ate, my father’s small pastor’s salary being reserved for major issues like books, fees and the like). l normally returned from the farm around 6pm and contributed to the making of supper. l studied after supper, a thing l did joyfully because l enjoyed academic work.
Saturdays were generally spent on the farm, since there was much time to invest in farming, the felling of trees for wood, and the like.
Sundays were exclusively for the Lord and myself. House work was followed by Church service, and then l was free to play, visit friends and study.
In the year 1954, just before l turned nine, l began to desire to give my darling father a substantial gift. l wanted to give him some money as a gift. He was in the semi-final year at the Theological Training College and l knew the strain with which he made ends meet with the large family he had and the small allowance he was given. The question was, “How would l have money to make him this gift?” l knew that l could not ask my mother to give me some money from her profits from the sales of the “accra” so that l would give my father. l felt that such a gift would cost me nothing and produce little impact. l felt that it would fail to tell him what l wanted to tell him: that to me the whole world did not contain a father that was equal to my father in any way.
l decided to work on a farm to earn the money for the gift. Not too far from where we lived was the home and farm of a man with a large coffee farm. l went to him and asked him to allow me to clear the grass on a part of his farm for pay. He said that l was too small to do any reasonable work but l convinced him that l was able. He showed me a large portion and promised that he would pay me a floring for it, if it was well done. l was delighted.
Because l wanted the gift to be a surprise to my father, l decided that l had to work at the project at my free time so that my absence would not be noticed. l kept to this and invested all the spare time l could on that farm. There were times when l could only clear the grass for 15 minutes but at other times l was able to invest more time. This went on for about one month and then one historic day, the work was finished and l was paid.
As l went home with the money, l was like a man carrying the world’s fortune. l waited for my father to be alone. Then l went to him and humbly gave him my gift. He was very surprised and in order to verify, he and l went to the farmer who showed him the work l had done.
What that gift, earned through dignified manual labour, did to my relationship with my father must wait for another opportunity to be told. What my new relationship with him contributed to making me the man l am today must also wait for another opportunity to be narrated.
Do you then wonder why l am all in for manual labour?
Do you then see why l consider manual labour a must?
Do you agree then with me that manual labour is dignifying?
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