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Opportunity looks a lot like work

By Stephen C. Schultz

I was working in the yard yesterday fixing some sprinklers. My two youngest daughters were weeding the flower beds and raking them out. I had to dig some trenches along the sidewalk to get to the sprinkler pipe. The frustrating thing was that the water would gurgle up through a crack in the sidewalk, so I didn’t know which side I needed to start digging, or even where the leak was. So, I just started digging. Of course, I started on the wrong side. So, once I determined the leak was not from the sprinkler line on the South side of the sidewalk, I started on the North side. It didn’t take long to find the split in the pipe.

The temperature had reached close to 100 degrees and I was ready for a break. I went inside and got a drink, then grabbed my keys and headed to the hardware store to get the various parts needed to make the repair. I was happy to be traveling the 15min or so in a nice air conditioned car with my cold 32oz beverage purchased from the local convenience store.

On the way back through my neighborhood I notice a late model Ford full sized van with a small utility trailer attached, parked just down the block from my home. There was a boy about aged 12 mowing the lawn of the home the van was parked in front of and his mother was sitting in the front seat. It looked as though she was reading a book, waiting for him to move on to the next home on their route.

While some who read this may have a negative response to this scenario, thinking it is one of insensitive parenting and child labor, I was quite impressed! Here was a mother taking time out of her day to drive her son around to homes so he could work at his summer job. This mom was actually parenting and helping her son learn the value of work at a young age. He was also learning the value of a dollar as well as meeting the needs and expectations of his “customers”; all valuable life lessons.

In my last post, I mention some statistics about the decline in teens that have summer jobs and the detrimental effect on society. The fact that many graduate high school and even college without having learned the skills and competencies necessary for entering the workplace is concerning to employers. Many employers are looking to hire graduates that can demonstrate character as well as competence in not only their chosen field of study, but interpersonal skills as well.

Now, I’m not a big fan of most in Hollywood. Sure, I appreciate seeing movies and entertainment as much as anyone. But, the drug rehabs, divorces, shallow morals and constant sensationalized personal tragedies are of no interest to me. However, Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher shared some advice and insight at the recent Teen Choice Awards that is worthy of mentioning. He shared some of the different jobs he had as a teenager and shared that opportunities in life look a lot like work. He also reported to the audience that “I never had a job I was too good for”.

I was glad to see Ashton Kutcher share with teens some of the truths associated with adulthood. So often teens are catered to, rescued from some of the hardships in life and not taught to competently problem solve life’s unexpected turns. Are we teaching our children and teens the value of work, character and competence or are we simply allowing them to navigate this sea called life without a rudder? These are some things to think about; some things to ponder.

The mom in the van needs recognition and encouragement. She needs to know that her intentions are good and the work ethic her son is learning now will pay dividends down the road. Together they are creating shared memories and shared experiences that truly last a lifetime. Maybe next Saturday, she will edge the sidewalk while he mows the lawn, thus mentoring for him that, "I never had a job I was too good for".


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