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Part-time Jobs, Full-time Character Building

Did you have a part-time job growing up? Did you start before you were sixteen? Would you describe the job as a "good" job for the time?

Today I started editing a new client's story and that means thoroughly immersing myself in what he had to say. One thing that struck me about this gentleman was his industriousness. He grew up during the depression and he describes their first house as being on "skid row." No need for sympathy virtually all of the storytellers I've had the joy of recording, he's grateful for his childhood. Those tough experiences shaped him.

It's hard to keep track of all the jobs he had. He had a paper route starting at the age of 12. But even before that, he chipped ice and provided janitorial services for the local pool hall. And he babysat a neighbor's baby when he was only ten! When he turned 16, he got a job with the local mining company. This was common in his hometown. You'd do grunt work for two years and then (if you were lucky), when you turned 18, you'd get to go underground. Was that really a lucky circumstance? It's not something most of us would aspire to today but the pay was certainly good in the 1940s.

My husband and I stopped taking the paper years ago in favor of getting our news online. However, when we were getting the paper, it was tossed from a car window by a middle-aged man. He did a fine job but what are the entry-level jobs for kids today? How do they produce income with a bike and a bit of ambition? I love to see homemade lemonade stands and kids offering to do yard work but boy is it rare. Is that because school is so much more challenging today? Too many sports and extra-curricular activities? Or is social media sucking up all hours outside of school and sleep?

When personal histories are produced for our current generation of kids, will they have a section dedicated to entry levels jobs of their youth? Or will they talk about their tough school schedule, AP classes, running start, and honors programs? Or maybe they won't need a personal history at all since their lives are so well documented through social media.

Times have changed (as my children like to remind me!). And yet there's something about industriousness and hard work that commands respect in my book. There's much to learn from having a boss, being a boss, and committing to the grind of a job that's not glamours but provides pocket-change and promotes character building.

During every interview, I ask storytellers to give some advice for future generations. Almost unanimously, that wisdom includes a mention of working hard. And no wonder, whether they are part of the Greatest Generation or Baby Boomers, they've worked hard for the success they enjoy today. Sure, there may be an element of luck or good fortune, but hard work is the common thread and the universal route to success. And that's why I can't help but stop when I encounter a homemade lemonade stand. It might not be gourmet lemonade but something is taking place in the heart and mind of that child that is far more valuable than earning a couple of extra dollars.