My first “job” was a volunteer position with the City of Fremont in 1963. I was thirteen years old. My parents insisted that we get out of the house, stop watching TV, and do something for others.
By the age of thirteen, I had practiced (with tremendous success) the art of bossing and manipulating most of the children on our street, Mayfield Drive. In a span of only seven years, I had convinced our little band to play strip poker, model underwear, and eat peanut butter and grass. Of course, we were caught time and time again and justifiably punished, but my shenanigans continued to surface like the Phoenix. We went on to break glass vases, taste cow eyeballs from the local slaughterhouse, and annoy the neighborhood witch, Mrs. Paltrow.
Volunteering as an Adventure Day Camp CIT (Counselor in Training) seemed like a match made in Dirt Heaven. Golden Eagle was in charge of Fremont’s Day Camps, and he not only accepted my application immediately, but also dubbed me officially as Ladybug.
On the first day of my “job,” Sugar Bear and Golden Eagle assigned me to work with Snake. Even in those days, before I became an English major and began my life-long addiction to symbolism and theme, I had a sense that Snake and Ladybug might be a bad match.
After my first day on the job, helping 15 second grade boys make forts out of Popsicle Sticks, I had some second thoughts about my summer commitment.
“ I don’t like Snake, and he doesn’t like me.”
“ This job is boring.”
“ My campers are only interested in shooting each other, being gross, and snack time.”
These complaints were ignored. My parents were busy; Dad, with earning a living; Mom, with raising three other demanding children.
So, I learned to work (with a smile on my face, I might add) for a Snake.
Today’s youth could use more work in jobs outside of their parents’ cushy offices, or they could volunteer for the sake of volunteering.
In my office today, I employ four splendid high school students. Although I pay them, they should really pay me, for they are learning lessons about people, business, life, and money that can only come through hard work. They answer customers’ questions, vacuum and take out trash; they use a Visa/MasterCard terminal, and they call for tuition; they use a database and various computer programs, but most of all, they are privy to the ups and downs of those of us running small business, watching how hard we work to make our business one we can all be proud of.
Their parents are wise. Flute lessons, SAT preparation classes, and soccer practice certainly augment the lovely people they are becoming.
But work experience prepares them for life, don’t you think?
Priyanka, Tian Tian, Christine, and Dipti are laying groundwork for life work.
And they are working with Ladybug and company.
Photo by Cheri Block Sabraw 2008. Dedicated to Betty.