A letter to my daughter on her first job

Our darling girl

You may think your parents are very odd thinking it’s so important for you to get a part-time job this early in your life whilst still in high school. But, you must remember that we have been where you are now. Soon you will be leaving school and going off to university. We hope that this first job will help to instill the work ethic you will need to succeed in life.

Your dad may appear to have it easy now, but it was not always the case. At 13 he got his first vacation job selling newspaper subscriptions door-to-door. It was in a dangerous part of town, and work did not finish until after midnight. At 14 he had a summer job at a kennel that required cycling 24 miles each day, with a 7am start and a 5pm finish (including a half day on Chrismas). At 15 he started getting regular summer jobs with the Chamber of Mines. It was tedious clerical work, but it paid quite well and was available right through university. Eventually it provided a full-time opportunity after university, and remains a cornerstone of the work he does today.

During university, your Dad had three jobs. He would unpack Woolworths trucks from 4-8am six days a week, and often cycle to university on weekdays. After his studies he would go to the Chamber of Mines and put in a couple of hours if there was an opportunity. On Saturdays he would work all day at another Woolworths, helping man the tills, stock shelves, clean the shop, and do stock taking. It was very menial and unfulfilling work, but it provided discounted food and a reliable source of income that paid for a lot of things that would otherwise have been unavailable.

When we emigrated to the US, there were many nights when he worked right through at the rickety old desk we rescued from the dumpster near our apartment, writing stories for his publication to be ahead of its competitors.

I was fortunate enough to have my father pay for my studies, but I too worked while in high school and then at university. I have very fond memories of these first jobs, first at a clothing store for the modern teenager (the closest I ever got to being "hip"), then later at a bank as a teller. I also had to quickly learn the value of money when my parents divorced and I went from being a "rich kid" to a "poor kid" in just a couple of months.

These jobs taught us something. The world is divided into two sets of people: slackers and workers. My darling child, please don’t ever be a slacker. They are the ones for whom everything is just too much like hard work. They ensure that they manipulate the system so that they can take every break possible, use up as much sick leave as is allocated them, they generally gripe about every little chore, claim to never be paid enough, complain about how much better fellow employees have it, and make working unpleasant for anyone near them. 

They’ll watch the clock to see how soon they can get off work, they’ll pilfer whatever they can from the business. They’ll harbor a “the man owes me” type of attitude and agitate for any number of concessions. If they spent half as much time working instead of working at slacking, they would be remarkable employees. Slackers can come from any walk of life, their parents could be rich, so they think they are entitled. Alternatively, they could come from very lean circumstances and not have been taught the value and privilege that one has when one works. St. Paul describes this sort of person well in 2 Thess 3:10 as “walking in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.”

Workers on the other hand, intrinsically understand their vocation in the uniquely Lutheran sense of that word. They go the extra mile. They’ll see where they can contribute and make sure that they do. They’ll be happy to do what is needed while at work, and turn work into a kind of play – never even noticing they are laboring, because they understand it to be an honor.

Ability does not necessarily match productivity. We have know some incredibly gifted people who have squandered their God-given talents. We have also known some of apparent mediocre brain capacity who, through hard work and dedication have achieved way beyond what anyone would have believed possible. Stick-To-it-ness is a stronger indicator of success than talent.

To work is a great privilege; especially in this day and age when unemployment is high and there are way more people in the job market than there are jobs. Grab this opportunity with both hands my child. It does not matter how menial the work, there is great honor and dignity in having a job. It will give you a sense of self-worth that nothing else can.

The peddlers of welfare for all want one to believe that this is not the case. They want to create slackers of all of us. You see, as I mentioned before, slackers work hard at not working. So slackers make great voters. They like free things, they like being entitled, they want increased minimum wage but value minimum effort. Their expectations greatly outweigh their worth.

There are few things more rewarding than an honest day’s work. Remember that Adam was sent to work in the Garden even before the fall (Genesis 2:15), so work precedes the curse. After the fall, the Lord told Adam that he would eat bread by the sweat of his brow (Genesis 3). So, work became harder with more obstacles, but is not a curse. Have you ever observed a man who has been retrenched or has had to retire? They are in many cases lost and depressed. They feel that they are no longer of value in society. A man gets his identity from the work he does.

Work grounds us, it gives us a reason to get up in the mornings. It teaches us the value of money – working turns us into mini economists, understanding the true meaning of opportunity cost - five hours of your labor could buy you a nice dress, or it could get you a fancy meal, or it could contribute to sending you to the university of your choice when that time comes. 

So, take this opportunity and run with it. Be a worker, not a slacker. Don’t ever think that any job is beneath you. There is as much honor in the vocation of a trash collector and there is in being a bank manager. St. Paul made this beautifully clear when he wrote:

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:22-24 ESV)

We pray that you will take these words to heart as you start this new chapter in your life. We are very proud of you. We also expect you to contribute to your university education so that you don’t accumulate too much debt, which will burden you for most of your adult life and when opportunity cost will revolve around the big things such as marriage and family.

All my love,


August 18, 2015 by Wanita Wood
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