You hear about quality control these days. My mother’s version of quality control was “doitrightforgoodnesssakes” and there were no gray areas. Something was either done right, or, it was not. And you guessed it, “right” was her way. [pullquote]I don’t have enough energy to do it twice[/pullquote].
If—excuse me—when a floor was worth sweeping—and of course it always was— you got that broom into every corner and made sure it covered every square inch. When you swept or raked your driveway—and of course you did that every Saturday—you tracked down every miscreant stone, twig, or leaf. When you raked your lawn after mowing it—and of course those grass clippings could not stay there—you again covered every square inch and picked up every blade of cut grass. When you raked leaves out of your lawn you made sure you got every last leaf. If it took several days for all the trees to lose all of their leaves, then you raked leaves every day. When you cleared snow off any surface—and of course you did this before anyone walked on it—you not only used a shovel but also a broom.
Because I was the oldest daughter, all this became instinctive to me. I did ‘relax’ those standards a bit but not by much, apparently.
Last winter, as I helped my elderly neighbor clear her sidewalk of snow, she said, “I swear you guys have heat pipes in your sidewalks.”
“Oh sure,” I laughed, “We put them in just to make everyone else in town look bad.”
Then I added, “No seriously, you know our sidewalk is the same as yours but I think maybe it seems that way because we sweep them too.”
“Whaddaya mean, you sweep them? You’re using a shovel.”
“Well, yeah, but then I use a broom.”
“Oh, so you do it twice, I don’t have enough energy to do it twice.”
I did not think of it as doing it twice. Instead, I thought I was doing it right. Because, as everyone who shovels snow knows, a shovel does not always get all the snow off any surface, especially not cement sidewalks on the north side of the house. And more often than not, that thin dusting of snow then melts itself into ice. But, if you use a broom and sweep off that thin dusting the shovel did not get, you end up with a completely cleared sidewalk. But yes, that does mean that I do it twice, technically.
(Come to think of it, we do buy a new straw broom rather often.)
Now, do not misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that we all become Amish or adhere to my mother’s standards of doing it right but I am suggesting that we not forget a deeper issue, that of valuing quality over quantity. In an era of rampant consumerism, we seem determined to buy as many things as we can and then use them up and wear them out as quickly as possible without regard for the fact that we might have more if we had less and paid attention to quality. From the quality of the products we buy to the quality of the job we do.
There is also another principle at work here—the satisfaction of a job well done. I don’t know whether the concept of allowances or payment for chores has invaded today’s Amish but I do know that I did not get any sort of compensation for any chores. There was no praise either. If you did something right, you only knew that because you weren’t told to do it again and, “this time doitRIGHTforGOODNESSSAKES.”
The Amish standards of quality and their method of teaching children to work without pay might seem harsh but it teaches them that there is satisfaction in doing something to the best of one’s ability and that is the best reward. It teaches them that quality is valued over quantity. And best of all, it seems to prevent them from acquiring that dratted sense of entitlement.