The Value of Work – and Jeans!

I love what Ashton Kutcher said at the Teen’s Choice Awards!  Did you see his emotional speech about work?

He was saying something important under all that screaming – work is the key to success!

Since I was a kid, my parents taught me the value of work.  Mom, of course, was our town’s mayor, then  our state’s governor. She worked for a newspaper and tv station when I was very small. Dad has always been a commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay, plus, for years he had a great job in the oil fields up on the North Slope. Through some of those years he also owned an outdoor recreation shop selling and fixing snowmachines, watercraft, boats, ATVs, etc. (He always had Willow on his hip there, because she wasn’t in school yet and she loved hanging out in the mechanic shop!)

Mom and Dad worked hard. We weren’t wealthy, but they took care of our needs.

Here was my problem – mom sometimes didn’t realize I “needed” more jeans.

“If you want designer jeans, that’s fine,” Mom told me,  “but you’re gonna work for them.”

That’s why I got my first “real” job (besides babysitting) that summer at an out-of-the-way café in Nordstrom’s in Anchorage – which gave me the company’s discount on clothes. Of course, by the time I’d pay for the gas to get to Anchorage, plus parking, and then take advantage of that discount, I was barely breaking even.

There were several coffee stands with little drive-throughs where customers pull up to order fancy hot coffees, and—hopefully—leave me a tip. I worked in many of them, serving lattes, espressos, cappuccinos, etc. I’d happily be grinding and brewing coffee at the Sunrise Coffee Shack, then after my shift I’d drive down the road to Café Croissant and pour more coffee in the afternoons during a second shift there. Then, about a year later, I got a job working at the Espresso Café about fifty feet down the road. (Alaska seems to have coffee shacks on every corner!) Since it was all basically just the same job – smile, take orders, make their caffeine-infused drinks – I don’t think my bosses were ever concerned about me sharing company secrets.

Beginning in 7th grade, I also worked at my grandparent’s L&M Ace Hardware store in Dillingham, about four hundred air miles southwest of Anchorage.  It’s owned by my dad’s mom, who’s like a mom to everyone in that fishing town. One day, I was cleaning the glass shelves that held the guns and knives. Willow was on one side of the glass and would not stop bugging me. I took the Windex and merely sprayed it in her general direction. I was a mile away from her, but she immediately started screaming, “My eyes! My eyes!” My Nana, sick of listening to us, grabbed us both by the arm and said, “That’s it! You’re going home!”

After I got fired by my own grandmother, Dad wasn’t going to let me get away with being a bad worker. The next night, he hauled us all out to work in his open-air commercial fishing skiff.  This was harder – and so much colder – than cleaning the gun cases, but I look back on these times of employment when I really learned how hard people have to work to make money.

Now, as an adult, I still carry those lessons with me.  No, I don’t fish every Bristol Bay season opener anymore (at least not putting in enough time on the water slaying salmon to make much money!). I’ve been working for four years now in a dermatology office – with the best coworkers ever, I’d add!

My parents have said they are so proud of their kids’ work ethic, and that adds to the pride we can take in working hard every single day. I hope you all have that confirmation from your family and friends that reminds you how important work is. And like Ashton suggested from the awards show stage, don’t feel like any job is beneath you. And don’t wait for that “perfect” job to come along before getting off the couch to make a paycheck. Better jobs will come along after you put in the grinding hours today, believe me, I know. I’m glad for my work lessons through these years.

And now, thankfully, I can buy my own jeans, Mom!

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  • Lindsay

    I would love to have a “job” where I could take extensive time off any time I wanted to film a reality show, get cosmetic surgery, live in Arizona, or travel to Haiti (which was very honorable by the way). Sign me up!


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