Riot shows gaps in PNG’s informal economy law & policy
A child can soften a hardened heart

How I benefited from the wisdom of my mother


An entry in the 2015 Rivers Award
for Writing on Peace & Harmony

MY mother said to me, and I’m not sure I was ready to listen.

“My son, you must work. Let your back bend. Hold a spade in your hand, till the soil, make a garden and plant seeds.

“You must learn to sweat and earn the bread you eat. You must not be lazy. You must not live and eat on the sweat of others.

“You must work and play. You must work and eat. You must work and sleep. You must work and marry. If you don’t work, don’t play. If you don’t work, don’t eat. If you don’t work, don’t sleep. If you don’t work, don’t marry. How will you feed your wife? How will you care for your family?

“If you don’t work there will be no food for you. Don’t ask for food when you come home.

“If you don’t heed my advice, you will be poor, you will be begging from house to house for the food you need each day. You will be an embarrassment in society. Others will scoff at you when they see you begging for food.”

I resented this. I hated it. My heart was somewhere else. From the playground, the screaming and laughing children called me to the field. I loathed the words from my mother.

I shouted down her requests for me to help with her work. Am I doing to do your work? I am not going there! Youthful rebellious instincts defying authority.

Playing was my passion. It consumed time, energy and focus. And when I arrived home exhausted there was no food.

I groaned for food but my pleading fell on deaf ears. I was given none. “No food for you,” my mother said. “Go to the playground and find your food there. Go to your friend’s house.”

With my empty stomach churning, I dried my tears and went to my bed to sleep. Sleep came quickly to my weary body.

A few minutes into my slumber a warm hand woke me. “Son, rise and eat some food.”

And then, “You must work or there will be no food for you the next time.”

This time the words penetrated and registered in my consciousness.

In the morning I went to the garden and worked. After that I worked whenever I was given work to do. I fetched water, carried firewood, weeded the garden, looked after my small brothers and sisters.

In the evenings my mother praised me and I felt good inside. I was driven to do my best and honest work. My mother gave me the biggest plate. “You deserve it, son.”

Then she sprinkled more motherly words. “If you work like that you you will live in a good house, you will have abundant food and you will never be hungry.”

I went to school in a different province. The discipline of work had trained me to take responsibility for my own life.

I paid my own school fees.  I became independent and self -reliant. Today I live happily as productive citizen. I am happy that my mother ingrained in me the secret of personal success. A strong work ethic has shaped me to become who am today.

We Papua New Guineans, as individuals and as a nation, must value hard work if we want to be independent. We must maximise the opportunities we have to be productive.

When we work hard individually, we will reduce poverty, hunger, stealing and other social ills that come through want and scarcity.

Success favours the industrious.

We must eradicate unproductive habits like laziness, coming late to work and receiving more pay for doing less work.

There is no short cut to long-lasting personal and national success. Short cuts do not bring enduring prosperity. Only through the dignity of labour can we rise to true greatness.

Through grit and sweat and a vision of greatness, we can create a prosperous, peaceful and happy family, society nation.

The price of success is old fashioned, time tested and authentic - hard work. Only through hard work will we create a wealthy nation and live in peace and harmony.


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