My first several Jobs were of an entrepreneurial nature. I must have been about 10 years old when, with the help and guidance of my mother, I started an “unpaper route”. I was too young still to get a job delivering papers in my neighborhood, but I could take them back. I went around to my neighbors after school and asked them if they would save their newspapers for me. On Wednesday afternoons I would walk around with an old shopping cart and fill it with grocery bags of newspapers. Every month or so, I would load them in my parents yellow Mazda rx3 wagon and take them to the recycling center. I don’t know that I ever calculated what my hourly rate was, but I left the recycling center feeling proud, accomplished and excited to have “my money”.
After a few more enterprises including selling golf balls, rescued from the bushes and lakes at the golf course my dad played, to his golfing buddies, I got my first job working for someone else, at the resort hotel where my dad was a manager.
I didn’t get the job because I was qualified. I got the job because I was my dad’s kid. I didn’t recognize the privilege in that, but I think I did recognize that my dad was assuming a certain accountability on my behalf. If I didn’t do a good job, it was on me, but it was also on him. He knew that, and he took on that risk. He was my dad. That’s what dads do.
I received a tremendous amount of support from my mother when I was 10, to encourage me in my recycling program, from teaching me the importance of honoring my commitments, (when I said I would pick up papers every Wednesdays, I didn’t say every Wednesday that it wasn’t snowing.) to investing in my enterprise by buying me the perfect sized shopping cart, to actually driving me to the recycling center when it was time to cash in. In hindsight, my parents cost in supporting my various businesses, was likely ten times the money I actually made in them, and yet the value of the sense of accomplishment that I received informed my work ethic, and my sense of self in ways that have paid off exponentially.
‘In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, he told me, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’ – F. Scott Fitzgerald
I am who I am because of the opportunities that others have provided me with, and for my ability to take advantage of them. F Scott Fitzgerald’s opening lines of the Great Gatsby underline the root of compassion and the importance of opportunity.
The best way I can think of to repay my debt and my gratitude is to support providing opportunities for and investing in those who need it most.