Friday, June 14, 2013

More than academics

In the past few years, I have worked at various jobs to help support my family. My Learning Resources business has grown, and is nearly to the point, that I won't need to supplement it with other work, but there are still times when there are no classes to teach or children to tutor, or workshops to present. At those times, I need to rely on part-time jobs to fill the gaps. When I look for a part time job, many times, the primary consideration is convenience. Will this job allow me to spend time with my children when they need me, or can they accompany me on the job? Will my hours be flexible? Is the location near my home? I have been very fortunate in finding part-time employment that meets those criteria.

One of the jobs that I have done is cleaning an apartment building. Not glamorous, but very flexible, and convenient, and it helped me pay the bills. Although, this is not my favorite type of work, I don't mind it, and I take pride in doing a good job. I have noticed that as I work, I have time to think about other areas of my life that need attention, and to plan and even daydream, a bit.

My good friend, Margie, told me that she had read that jobs that require some hard physical labor are very good for us. She said that the author of the book mentioned how pioneers, whose lives were filled with hard labor, did not seem to experience the same levels of stress that we do. The author attributed that to the fact that while their bodies were working hard, their minds had time to filter through other issues they were facing in their lives. By comparison, today, many people "relax" by watching TV, or surfing the Internet. Those tasks may not required deep thought, but they do not allow our minds to rest. I felt that author made a lot of sense, and that, for now, the cleaning job is just what I need.

Some people become uncomfortable when I tell them that I have that part-time job. People that I meet in the apartment buildings, while I am cleaning, have mixed reactions, too. Some are very happy to see me, and stop to chat for awhile. They sometimes comment about how it takes a lot of work to make a building look nice. Others walk past me without saying a word, trying hard not to look at me. If I say, "Hello," they grunt or say nothing. At times, I feel that I am invisible. At one time I was offended by their reaction, and felt sad, then I decided that their reaction said more about them, than it did about me.

I recently read an article about the CEO of Office Depot, Steve Odland. He told the story of when he was young, and he was working as a server in a fancy French restaurant. One day, he was serving a small dish of purple sorbet to a very rich and important woman, and as he was preparing to set the dish in front of her, the sorbet tumbled out and onto her expensive white dress. He was sure she would be furious, but although she was initially startled, she told him in a calm and kind voice, "It's OK. It wasn't your fault." Mr. Odland says he has never forgotten that incident, or the lesson he learned from it. He decided that you could tell a lot about a person by how they treat a waiter or waitress. Today, in his position as CEO, he always takes prospective employees out to lunch, and he watches how they treat the server. If they are rude, they don't get the job.

A number of other CEOs of large corporations were asked if they thought Mr. Odland's theory was valid. Every single one agreed.

So when you're worried about whether your children are getting all the things they need academically, remember that getting a job or not getting a job, may not depend on their test scores, but rather on how they treat others.

I still smile and say "hello," to everyone I see when I'm cleaning, and sometimes they answer, and sometimes they don't. And I try to remember to not be offended or grumpy, when someone is rude, because as a very smart waitress once told me, "I have to be nice to everyone, because I have no way of knowing what they are going through in their own lives." She's right.

Kindness and consideration are two of the most important lessons you will ever teach your children. Whether they own their own business, or work for someone else, or raise a family of their own, those two traits will make their lives, and the lives of those around them, better.

With kindness and respect for you,



"Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you - not because they are nice, but because you are." ~Author Unknown

"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these." ~George Washington Carver

"Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree." ~Marian Wright Edelman

1 comment:

  1. Good post. I work as a job developer with mental health clients and I encourage my students to study the manner in which workers go about their job, and take the positive attributes for themselves, and steer clear from the traits that aren't positive.