Monday, May 19, 2008

Early mornings

This post is more for my kids when they get older and start complaining about work, and for my dad, Norvel the Magnificent.

Growing up, our family had a side business of cleaning local establishments. We cleaned a bank and a government building every weekday evening, with the exception of Friday nights; but then we also cleaned on Saturdays. Half of the time we did the cleaning in the evenings, but the other half of the time we did the cleaning in the early morning because we were busy doing other activities in the evening. It usually took us one to two hours depending on how many kids came and how fast we worked.

When we were very young, we were payed an allowance of $5 a week for contributing to the family. That grew to I think about $40 a month for me. It was a sliding payscale, with the oldest child getting the most (I was in the middle). By the time I was about 13, however, I never saw any money from my working efforts. It was the early 90s and the height of the recession. We needed the money to support the coffers required in having a large family. If we complained about not getting any money, my parents were masterful at helping us keep things in perspective: "You like to eat, don't you? You like your shoes, don't you? We're a family, we support one another." Being a part of the family cleaning business was probably the single-best lesson on life our parents taught us. My dad especially liked to use the hours cleaning together as forums for his wisdom. Common sermons my dad liked to infuse in us included:
  • Work builds character.
  • Life isn't fair.
  • Give yourself a goal and aim for it.
  • Go to college. You don't want to be doing this the rest of your life.
  • Think of others.
  • Don't complain.
  • Take it in stride.
  • Like river rocks, be smoothed by adversity.
  • Don't quit. Hoe to the end of the roe.

At the time, I didn't much appreciate it. But now I am grateful beyond words. At my job currently, we see people start and within a week they are complaining about minutia of the job. I honestly don't think I've complained about a job I've had since graduating from college. "You mean I don't have to get up at 5 a.m. and complete boring, manual labor?"

However, I did need to get up this morning to work. I like my work, so it really isn't that big of a deal. Maybe it is different when you are the parent helping to support a family and not the child. When Dad would get us up early in the morning to work, it was like scratching sandpaper acrossed a sun-burnt back. It was excruciating to be awoken so early to do work. I don't know if it's just getting older or what, but it doesn't seem so bad to me now. I don't mind waking up early to do work. Of course, I also have the luxury of taking a nap in the afternoon. Ah, the simple things. I'm contemplating now what evil-work device I can institute for my children. Perhaps we'll start with clearing the back yard of rocks.

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