Hard Labor

Tonight I worked alongside the youth as they provided service to members of the community. I was with the team that helped remove rocks from the yard of a family’s new home. We would gather the rocks with rakes, place them in buckets or wheelbarrows, and haul the rocks to the far side of the home. As I toiled away, a few pleasant memories surfaced.

The summer before my senior year in high school I stumbled across a Woody Allen movie called “Take the Money In Run.” I was greatly amused by this comedy, done in documentary style, that chronicles the life of a completely inept criminal named Virgil Starkwell. (My high school football coach was similarly amused, as shortly after the movie was broadcast I heard him extolling the film’s virtues to my teammates). Virgil’s incompetence manifests itself in myriad ways. For example, he botches a bank robbery when he hands a note to the bank teller, only to have the teller call upon numerous others to help decipher Virgil’s abysmal penmanship. Here is a snippet found at http://www.imdb.com:

Bank Teller #1: Does this look like “gub” or “gun”?
Bank Teller #2: Gun. See? But what does “abt” mean?
Virgil: It’s “act”. A-C-T. Act natural. Please put fifty thousand dollars into this bag and act natural.
Bank Teller #1: Oh, I see. This is a holdup?

At one point Virgil is sentenced to hard labor. At the rock pile he joins in with veteran inmates who are swinging their sledgehammers in cadence with the singing of an inmate with a deep bass voice. Virgil immediately starts singing along with significant energy, but his chaotic efforts destroy the rhythm and productivity of the entire group During the course of tonight’s project I also recalled an exchange a friend of mine, after he had reached high school age, had with his father. The conversation was reported to me by his sister, and went something like this:

Father: Son, will you please mow the lawn?
Son: But that’s manual labor!

(On September 5 I recorded these reflections from my August 30, 2006 experience)

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