hard work and generosity.

I landed my first official job shortly after my 16th birthday, a hostessing gig at a local steakhouse. After a quick non-interview interview with the General Manager, he complimented my strong handshake and told me I was hired. I went straight home to tell my dad, who had probably never been prouder. I’m pretty sure he started coaching me on my handshake around age seven.

I had a slew of unofficial job experience before hostessing: babysitting, sweeping my grandparents’ pool shop, working for my parents at their office doing everything from filing and stuffing envelopes to vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms. When I was younger, my brother and I would spend a week of our summers with my grandparents in Oroville, a vacation made up of both work and play. We accompanied them to their various rental properties and helped my grandpa with fix-it projects, fetching him tools and cleaning the driveways. After a week’s stay, my grandpa handed us each a crisp $10 bill for our hard work, which basically felt like a million bucks to a kid.

But my hostessing job was my first real paycheck, where I earned minimum wage plus tips for showing people where to sit and charming every customer who ordered take-out. I eventually left hostessing to be a waitress at Chilis, and to this day the smell of queso makes me want to barf. The job at Chilis led to a waitressing job at a fancier restaurant, Strizzis, where I could make up to $200 in a four hour shift. I still remember coming home late at night smelling like the wood burning stove with cash practically falling out of my pockets. My hair smelled like fire on a regular basis.

After every shift I split my money three ways: giving, spending, and saving. I had three envelopes in my desk drawer, a system I had been using since I was in elementary school, the same system that my parents had taught me. Ten percent went back to God, ten percent went to savings, and the rest was mine to use however I wanted. As I got older I shifted more money into savings and less into spending, but ten percent to God never changed.

I waitressed and babysat my way through college, saving saving saving. I did internships, paid and unpaid, in an attempt to add experience to my resume without sacrificing my tips and babysitting cash. My senior year I worked as a nanny, an Executive Assistant, and a free intern for an independent film company. After graduation, that same film company hired me on as a Marketing & Communications Coordinator, proving that sometimes unpaid internships do pay off. From there I went on to be a Wellness Concierge at a country club, and eventually a Marketing & PR Manager for a swanky hotel in downtown. After two years in that position, it was time to sink or swim, and I ultimately decided to swim.

I’ve been self employed ever since, and what an adventure that has been—learning the ins and outs of accounting, business licenses, taxes, and more. Some days I feel confident as all heck and some days I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.

Lately the word “work” has been on my mind, and more specifically, what role work plays in my life. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to work, and why I love to work, and why I want Everett to work, and what I want to teach him about work.

And I guess in simple terms it all boils down to this: I want Everett to work hard, and I want Everett to be generous.

I want him to value time and energy and talent and the importance of going all in and dreaming big. I want to encourage him to think independently and also to work as part of a team. I want to teach Everett that it’s okay to chase your dreams, but sometimes you have to flip burgers while you do that. I want to teach him about endurance and elbow grease and putting in your time and working your way up. I want to fight the temptation to hand him everything on a silver platter because I know that will do both of us a serious disservice.

I want Everett to see us work hard, to see us give generously and love well, and use our God-given talents to bless our community and provide for our family. I want him to value effort over performance and not lose sight of his character along the way. I want to encourage him in his education, his internships, his unavoidable time flipping burgers. I want to see Everett for who he is, for the man God created him to be, and I want to speak life and hope and encouragement into his decisions. I want Everett to know that his identity is found in Christ, not in his work, but that often our work is a way in which we can glorify God through community and stewardship. I want to teach Everett about money, about saving, about giving, about treasures not stored up here but stored up in Heaven.

I want to teach Everett that we work hard in order to give generously.

I want Everett to feel compelled to give more than he feels compelled to take.

And it’s because of this, because of my passion for work and generosity, that sometimes we do things the slow way around here. It’s because of this that Everett helps me unload the dishwasher, even though it would be much quicker to do it myself. It’s because of this that I make Everett put away his own toys, even though I can do it in a fraction of the time without singing the dumb clean-up song. It’s because of this that we spend close to thirty minutes putting away groceries as Everett hands us each individual item. It’s because of this that I hand him every piece of clothing from the washing machine and let him put it into the dryer.

A few months ago, a friend confided in me that one of her worst fears is raising her child to grow up with a sense of entitlement. I hadn’t realized it until then, but that is certainly a fear of mine as well. And while Everett will undoubtedly grow up as a child of privilege in America, that doesn’t mean he needs to be spoiled or ungrateful.

I love Everett as much as I could possibly love another human being, and just like any other parent, I long to give him the whole world. And I know this is going to be a lesson I learn as a mother over the course of my entire life, but I’m pretty sure the best way to do that is to not give Everett the whole world. The best way to give him the world is to teach him how to be a part of it—to work hard, to give generously, to love well, and above all else, to thank the Lord who made it so.

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20 Responses to hard work and generosity.

  1. Nicole says:

    Love this. I have a 1.5 year old daughter and want her to grow up learning the same things :)

  2. Kim says:

    Haha I love your stories of your odd jobs – I think I had a total of 15 growing up. Similar story about restaurant smells – I was driving home late from my job as a cocktail waitress and was pulled over for slightly speeding. When the cop came to my window, I reeked of alcohol (per usual, coming home from a shift). I swore up and down I hadn’t been drinking, showed him my cocktail waitress apron, etc… it was pretty funny. :)

  3. Emma says:

    As a parent, it’s so hard to not give your kids everything they want so you can show the that working for it will eventually feel better and will make them a better person. You want to hand them everything because you love them so much! I’m glad my parents taught me the value of working hard for the things I wanted. This is a great post, thanks for sharing!

  4. Jo says:

    My husband and I were just talking about this very subject tonight. I was thanking him for working his butt off, because not only does it encourage me to work hard, I know his work and his attitude towards work will also be a great example to our future children. I really want my kids to be financially independent while taking care of their families and being generous towards others. There seems to be a sense of entitlement in today’s world and I really hate it. Great post, Ashlee. One I’m bookmarking for the future.

  5. Suz says:

    I think this is exactly what Jesus would say about how he wants all of us to grow up. If our goal, daily, is to become more like Christ, Ashlee you are portraying more of his heart all the time.
    Great post

  6. Elizabeth says:

    So beautiful, so well written. These are thoughts and practices that I whole-heartedly support and so look forward to teaching my someday children!
    Elizabeth´s last blog post ..Paleo Fish Tacos

  7. Victoria B says:

    Ashlee, you are the sweetest. You are an excellent mother, wife, writer, and child of God. I love this post, just as I love all of yours.
    Victoria B´s last blog post ..One Year

  8. This might possibly be my favorite blog post ever. I’m a freshman in college and haven’t had many jobs. Your envelope system is genius, especially the 10% that goes back to doing good in God’s name. I have no doubts that, with you as his mother, Everett will grow up to be a hard working, generous, and ambitious person.
    Bailey McLemore´s last blog post ..Good Times!

  9. julie says:

    Yes I agree I worked hard and went to school. I am trying to teach that to my kids, and yes we make them clean the house. I want them to succeed and save, and be a productive member of society. Wonderful post :)
    julie´s last blog post ..The Here and Now book review

  10. Mariah says:

    Thank you for that list of things you do with Everett, I’m going to start trying them with my girl. I think she might be too young, but she’ll get it soon enough.
    Mariah´s last blog post ..Everybody’s Waffling

  11. A good friend of mine said her best advice for raising well behaved children is having them clear their plate from the dinner table the second they are able to. At first I thought it was a bit odd as her “best advice”, but she explained that it teaches them great work eithic, respect and working to better the family. And that it trickles into other things, such as picking up their toys and their room, and not leaving messes. It has really stuck with me, and I love everything else you wrote supporting this. So well written and beautiful Ashlee. Sounds like Everett is already off to a great start : )
    Natalie @ Tastes Lovely´s last blog post ..Asparagus and Goat Cheese Frittata

  12. Christina Josephine says:

    This is so refreshing!!! These days, so many bloggers sing the praises of SAHM-ing, and indeed, there are a lot of praises to be sung there. But there is also so much to be said for the spiritual and character-building value of paid work. While I would prefer to be a SAHM, it’s probably not in the financial cards, and at the of the day, I believe my future kids will benefit from watching their mom (more or less) happily deploy to the place where she is of most use to her particular family—which is to say, the workplace.

  13. Lesley says:

    Love, love, love this post. Our parents would have gotten along GREAT because my dad is all about the firm handshake and working from a young age…which is why I had a paper route at 13. :) Your best line in this essay, in my opinion, is “I want to teach Everett that it’s okay to chase your dreams, but sometimes you have to flip burgers while you do that.” This line makes me super confident that you won’t raise an entitled child. You just won’t. Also, I love that you do things the slow way. We try to do things the slow way too…dishwasher emptying and plate clearing are part of our daily routine and it’s so fun to watch Anna delight in this independence.

    You guys are great parents. Such a privilege watching you!
    Lesley´s last blog post ..Runway lights

  14. Gina says:

    Great post! I’ve been working since I was 16 years old and feel like, because of my work history, I’m now a hardworker with strong work ethic. I want to my children to start working around the same age and develop those same qualities as well.
    Gina´s last blog post ..Five on Friday v28

  15. Katie says:

    Beautifully written, Ashlee. You are raising a good man.
    Katie´s last blog post ..Currently

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