I landed my first official job shortly after my 16th birthday, a hostessing gig at a local steakhouse. After a quick non-interview interview with the General Manager, he complimented my strong handshake and told me I was hired. I went straight home to tell my dad, who had probably never been prouder. I'm pretty sure he started coaching me on my handshake around age seven. I had a slew of unofficial job experience before hostessing: babysitting, sweeping my grandparents' pool shop, working for my parents at their office doing everything from filing and stuffing envelopes to vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms. When I was younger, my brother and I would spend a week of our summers with my grandparents in Oroville, a vacation made up of both work and play. We accompanied them to their various rental properties and helped my grandpa with fix-it projects, fetching him tools and cleaning the driveways. After a week's stay, my grandpa handed us each a crisp $10 bill for our hard work, which basically felt like a million bucks to a kid.
But my hostessing job was my first real paycheck, where I earned minimum wage plus tips for showing people where to sit and charming every customer who ordered take-out. I eventually left hostessing to be a waitress at Chilis, and to this day the smell of queso makes me want to barf. The job at Chilis led to a waitressing job at a fancier restaurant, Strizzis, where I could make up to $200 in a four hour shift. I still remember coming home late at night smelling like the wood burning stove with cash practically falling out of my pockets. My hair smelled like fire on a regular basis.
After every shift I split my money three ways: giving, spending, and saving. I had three envelopes in my desk drawer, a system I had been using since I was in elementary school, the same system that my parents had taught me. Ten percent went back to God, ten percent went to savings, and the rest was mine to use however I wanted. As I got older I shifted more money into savings and less into spending, but ten percent to God never changed.
I waitressed and babysat my way through college, saving saving saving. I did internships, paid and unpaid, in an attempt to add experience to my resume without sacrificing my tips and babysitting cash. My senior year I worked as a nanny, an Executive Assistant, and a free intern for an independent film company. After graduation, that same film company hired me on as a Marketing & Communications Coordinator, proving that sometimes unpaid internships do pay off. From there I went on to be a Wellness Concierge at a country club, and eventually a Marketing & PR Manager for a swanky hotel in downtown. After two years in that position, it was time to sink or swim, and I ultimately decided to swim.
I've been self employed ever since, and what an adventure that has been---learning the ins and outs of accounting, business licenses, taxes, and more. Some days I feel confident as all heck and some days I still feel like I have no idea what I'm doing.
Lately the word "work" has been on my mind, and more specifically, what role work plays in my life. I've been thinking a lot about what it means to work, and why I love to work, and why I want Everett to work, and what I want to teach him about work.
And I guess in simple terms it all boils down to this: I want Everett to work hard, and I want Everett to be generous.
I want him to value time and energy and talent and the importance of going all in and dreaming big. I want to encourage him to think independently and also to work as part of a team. I want to teach Everett that it's okay to chase your dreams, but sometimes you have to flip burgers while you do that. I want to teach him about endurance and elbow grease and putting in your time and working your way up. I want to fight the temptation to hand him everything on a silver platter because I know that will do both of us a serious disservice.
I want Everett to see us work hard, to see us give generously and love well, and use our God-given talents to bless our community and provide for our family. I want him to value effort over performance and not lose sight of his character along the way. I want to encourage him in his education, his internships, his unavoidable time flipping burgers. I want to see Everett for who he is, for the man God created him to be, and I want to speak life and hope and encouragement into his decisions. I want Everett to know that his identity is found in Christ, not in his work, but that often our work is a way in which we can glorify God through community and stewardship. I want to teach Everett about money, about saving, about giving, about treasures not stored up here but stored up in Heaven.
I want to teach Everett that we work hard in order to give generously.
I want Everett to feel compelled to give more than he feels compelled to take.
And it's because of this, because of my passion for work and generosity, that sometimes we do things the slow way around here. It's because of this that Everett helps me unload the dishwasher, even though it would be much quicker to do it myself. It's because of this that I make Everett put away his own toys, even though I can do it in a fraction of the time without singing the dumb clean-up song. It's because of this that we spend close to thirty minutes putting away groceries as Everett hands us each individual item. It's because of this that I hand him every piece of clothing from the washing machine and let him put it into the dryer.
A few months ago, a friend confided in me that one of her worst fears is raising her child to grow up with a sense of entitlement. I hadn't realized it until then, but that is certainly a fear of mine as well. And while Everett will undoubtedly grow up as a child of privilege in America, that doesn't mean he needs to be spoiled or ungrateful.
I love Everett as much as I could possibly love another human being, and just like any other parent, I long to give him the whole world. And I know this is going to be a lesson I learn as a mother over the course of my entire life, but I'm pretty sure the best way to do that is to not give Everett the whole world. The best way to give him the world is to teach him how to be a part of it---to work hard, to give generously, to love well, and above all else, to thank the Lord who made it so.