Charity should begin at home, but should not stay there. ~ Philip Brooks
You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. ~ Anonymous
A good laugh is sunshine in the house. ~ William Makepeace Thackeray
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I know we have all just come through the season of ‘giving’. You’ve all been inundated with messages, encouragements and reasons to give. We’ve been asked to give our time, to give donations and to give of spirit. This week, I want to speak to a different kind of ‘giving’.
I was reminded of what I consider to be a better time, while my wife and I had a conversation about the amount of unemployed people we knew.
In 1979, as a fourteen-year-old lad, I wanted a job. I decided I wanted to work at the grocery store that was located across the street from where we lived. I filled out an application form and left it with the nice lady in the office and then waited for what I assumed would be a phone call asking me to work for them.
Several weeks passed and I returned to the store to enquire when I might be able to work? The nice lady in the office told me she had forwarded my application on to the manager. Assuming that perhaps my application had been lost, I filled out another application. Again, several weeks had passed with no success. I again returned to the store. The nice lady informed me that she had forwarded my second application to the manager. I asked if I could speak to the manager, and she paged him.
As he approached the office, I stood tall, stuck out my hand and introduced myself. He asked what he could do for me and I replied, “I’m hoping you can give me a job after school and on Saturdays.”
He looked me over and replied, “First off, I think you might be a little young, and secondly, I don’t give jobs.”
I was a little confused and also a little offended. “I’m almost fifteen. I can do any work any of your other people can do. I called on you because the lady in the office said she gave you both my applications. So I assumed you were in charge of giving out the jobs.”
He looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t give people jobs. I hire good people who work hard.”
I quickly replied, “If you hire me, I promise I’ll give you an honest day’s work. I’ll match your best workers.”
I think he actually appreciated my persistence. He looked me over and said, “You won’t give me an honest day’s work. If I hire you, you will do the work I assign you. In return, I will not give you a paycheque; you will earn an honest paycheque. Neither one of us is giving the other anything. You say you can match my best worker on any task?” I nodded my head. “You can start tomorrow. You’ll be given an aisle to stock. My best guy stocks twenty-two cases an hour, priced and shelved.”I was scheduled for a three-hour shift starting at 4:30pm. I was shown where to find the stock in the warehouse that I was responsible for, was shown how to use a price-gun and then set loose. In my mind, I had a goal of sixty-six cases, so as to match his best worker at twenty-two cases an hour. An hour in, I knew I wasn’t as fast. At the pace I was going, I’d be lucky to do thirty-five. 7:30 came, and it was time for me to punch out, which I did. I then returned to my aisle. It was 9:30 by the time I had completed sixty-six cases. The next shift was similar. I still couldn’t do twenty-two cases per hour, but I managed to get out before 9:00. Each shift, I continued to get faster. I always punched my time card out at the end of the scheduled shift, but continued working until I had completed what worked out to twenty-two cases per hour. By my third week, I was close to achieving twenty-two cases per hour honestly.
I remember my first paycheque. It was for only my first week as I had started mid-pay period. I knew that I had only been scheduled for nine hours that first week, yet when I received my cheque, it was for fourteen and a half hours. Nervously, I approached the manager with the discrepancy. He looked me in the eye and asked, “Are you telling me that you actually did twenty-two cases an hour your very first week?
I shook my head sheepishly, “But I told you I would match your best worker.”
He smiled and asked, “Can you do twenty-two cases an hour now?”
I nodded my head, “It’s tight, but I’m pretty close.”
That’s when he confided. “I told you my best worker did twenty-two cases an hour. I didn’t say he did that his very first week. It took him a few months to get that fast. I didn’t give you a job; I hired you and defined my expectations. You didn’t give me any time I wasn’t willing to compensate for. You earned that entire paycheque. You’ve proven to be a good worker. For that, I don’t give you my respect, you’ve earned my respect.”
I kept that job all through high school and most of university. It’s amazing what a young person can learn from a part-time job.