Our church youth group is starting a fund-raising effort to support their mission trip scheduled for this next summer. One of their strategies is to have the kids do work for people in return for a donation to their fund. I love this “rent-a-kid” kind of fund raising. (And, John and I already have a project on their “to schedule” list.) Compare working for pay against begging and I’ll always go with the work program. You know what I mean, I like car washes and bake sales and I’ll even accept the various sales programs over the too frequent mailed or in-person request for funds.
As a kid, I found all kinds of ways to earn money. Before going to work at the local Western Auto, I was a champion babysitter. Although the acceptable wage then was 50 cents an hour, I made a pile of cash. Babysitting taught me to seek sales. By the first of December, my best customers had already filled my calendar for the holidays. In fact, around the first of November I would ask my favorite family if they needed someone for New Year’s Eve. I wanted that night booked early with the nicest and best paying couple possible.
One summer I got a gig “nannying” an 18-month old. I would arrive at the couple’s apartment at 7:00am, do the dishes and make the beds, take care of the baby throughout the day and make lunch for the lady and me to eat on her break. I was amazed as to how much I had learned from my mom that made that job easy and a great money maker!
In addition to babysitting, my sisters and I were sometimes hired to clean houses. I will never forget the lady who had a chandelier in the foyer that could be lowered electronically for cleaning, but she had us clean the floor beneath it with old wash cloths. Some know that I have always had a special appreciation for those who clean public buildings. You see, my sister was our church janitor and when I helped her, I earned 50 cents or a dollar. We learned a lot about churches and those who worked at and attended ours. For instance, we knew who hid candy wrappers in the pew racks and who wrote notes in their bulletins, who never cleaned the coffee pot and who spent time at the church in prayer.
(The scary thing about working off hours in a public building is that noises can drive you a little crazy. A traveling preacher (known as an evangelist) stopped by to visit our pastor once while we were cleaning. We were the only ones in the church. The sanctuary was quiet and dark as we worked and we did not hear him enter the room. Suddenly his booming bass voice asked in a very stern way where pastor so-and-so was. We girls jumped and screamed. He apologized to us and left. Later, when we compared notes, we found that we both had thought that he was the devil. You can be sure that we never told him or our pastor and we kept a close eye on that door after that!)
Back to thinking about work!
The funny thing is that I did not need to make money. I was blessed with parents who fed us and clothed us and paid for school and activity expenses. Now, they examined any “special requests” pretty closely – not everything was approved. But, I don’t remember them ever turning me down for something important. On the other hand, we knew not to ask for anything too outlandish.
So why did I clean houses and babysit and work at Western Auto? Simple – independence and pride. I liked being able buy something if I wanted it and I was proud that I had earned my own money. I really liked seeing the numbers in my bank account grow with birthday money and money I had earned. My folks helped that along by sometimes stepping in and paying for things that I thought I would have to pay for myself. They encouraged and mentored and supported me. But, the lessons my parents taught were really not about money; they taught me about work and independence.
As you think about holiday giving, don’t do too much. Praise independence. Don’t rob others of their pride. Instead, give of yourself. Be generous with your time and your wisdom. (Just remember that a little can go a long way!)
Jill (just one of God’s kids)
All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23)