Work Ethic

A wooden wall with the word work written in wood.

I read recently that two-thirds of all parents in the United States give their children a weekly allowance of $30.  I was taken aback by that knowledge, wondering how you could justify giving a child that much.  It’s not that I begrudge them having that money, but it’s the fact they probably did nothing to earn it.

I remember when I started giving my two children an allowance.  They were 8-10 years old and their mother came to me one day and said, “We need to start giving the kids an allowanceâ€.  I agreed but thought they should earn it.  They were wonderful children, but I was sure handing them unearned money would not build good character.

So, we sat down with them one day and told them our plan:  They would get a weekly allowance of $2 (equivalent to $14 today), but they had to make their bed every morning before school, take out the trash after breakfast and scoop up the dog poop in the yard upon returning home from school. If any of their school report cards showed a grade below “C†their allowance would stop immediately and only resume after the next report card showed “C†or better. 

That plan worked well, tho my daughter grumbled a lot about the “dog poop†thing.  Seems her friends in the neighborhood would come by our house and make fun of her as she dutifully scooped up after our beloved dog. 

I think the important thing both learned was that everything in life must be earned and that includes love, friendship, and success.  What message are we sending to our children when we give them a weekly allowance with no expectations?

My best friend in high school became a billionaire.  His parents were not poor, but they insisted he earn his money.  He sold newspapers, cut grass, and drove a school bus.  In college, he busted tables and paid his own way.  Would he have succeeded had his parents not insisted he work?  Maybe, but I think it played a big role in his success.  We still see each other at high school reunions and he’s still the same old fellow I enjoyed being around as a kid.  I can’t say for sure, but I’ll bet he did the same with his children. 

I recall telling a co-worker back in the ‘70’s about my son’s successful athletic exploits and he looked me in the eyes and said plaintively, “But have you taught him how to make money?â€Â  The answer to that, unknown to me at the time, was yes.  My son went on to be very successful in his career.  I prefer to think it’s because he started early in life earning his way.

Suze Orman said, “The key to making money is to stay investedâ€.  Now that’s a horse we should all be riding!   

   ðŸˆMy wife and I were returning from a trip to visit our grand kids in Tennessee a few weeks ago, and we stopped at a rest stop to use the facilities and walk around the campus for about 10 minutes.  As we returned to our truck, a young man, looking to be in his late 20s, approached us and asked for help. 

He had, according to him, $23.50 and needed $20 more to get him, his wife, and daughter, to their destination in Arkansas.  His eyes were filled with tears as he recalled serving in Iraq and Pakistan and being unable to find a job upon his return home.  The AC in his truck had ceased to work and his wife & child were suffering immensely.  He informed me that he had contemplated giving me his wedding ring if I would help.  He, of course, knew that no one would take it. 

I was concerned by the constant flow of tears that found their way down his cheeks and dropped painfully on the pavement.  I decided to help him, but I had one condition: take me to meet your family.  He stuttered and said, “They’re in the truck over on the other side (where large trucks park), and I really don’t want my wife to know that I’m out here begging for helpâ€. 

I replied again that I would help him, but he had to take me to meet his family.  He said he couldn’t do that, it would upset his wife and he would feel so ashamed to admit to her how bad the situation was.  I then said very bluntly that I could not help him if he was unwilling to abide my request.  He said he understood and walked away.  We left the Rest Area feeling confident that we did the right thing, but I was a little embarrassed about how easily I was seduced into believing that young man’s story.  

I have forgiven that young man for his deceit but as Ken Hubbard said, “No one ever forgets where he buried the hatchetâ€.  I’m hoping I don’t retrieve that hatchet with my next encounter with someone down and out on their luck.

 ðŸˆâ€œThank Youâ€.  How often do you hear someone say that after you have helped them in some way?  Maybe you sent them a gift for a special day, or it could have been for no reason other than you wanted to bring a smile to their face.  Maybe, they were in a bind and you helped as much as you could? 

I think we have all been guilty of not saying, “Thank Youâ€, as often as we should, and we tend to put the blame on a younger generation.  I can remember as a young boy not saying it very much and my mother’s condemnation after each failure to do so. 

As I grew older, I became aware of the importance of thanking someone that lent a hand, gave me a gift, or just showed me kindness when I needed it.  As a Christian, I constantly thank God for his many kindnesses to me, but I do know that I should thank each person that does that as well.  Newly weds often receive many gifts, and it is vitally important they respond to each gift given.  Parents should teach their children to always respond to people that shower them with love, affection, and gifts.

We have all heard that “It is better to give than to receive†and that may very well be true, but I also believe that statement should be expanded to include, “but the receiver should always say thank youâ€.  I think that helps build good character.

“Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.” – Heraclitus