For My Mother On Her Birthday, A Thank You

When I was twelve years old, my parents told me that if I wanted a car to drive when I turned sixteen, then I would have to pay for it. So in the summer before my sixth grade year, determined to make enough money to purchase a car, I started my own landscaping business. To elicit my first customers, I printed and delivered countless flyers to every resident within walking distance and then waited. When the first calls came in, my parents were kind enough to lend me their lawnmower, gas can, edger, and leaf blower for my work. Gas was my only overhead, and, once each job was done, clients paid me cash on the spot. After the first summer, I began calling my little venture “Executive Lawn Care,” hoping to expand to more neighborhoods. For the next four years, common was the sight of me walking on our neighborhood streets, pushing a perplexing pile of yard tools atop my Craftsman mower.

Two weeks before my sixteenth birthday, I had saved five thousand dollars. So delighted were my parents about my commitment and performance that they chipped in an extra one thousand dollars to help me purchase the car of my dreams, a 1989 black Chevrolet Blazer. I drove and enjoyed immensely that beautiful car for the next seven years, eventually selling it to another hardworking sixteen year old at a reduced rate.

In considering an experience aside from my occupation and studies that had a significant impact on my life, I have relished thinking through the myriad ramifications that the process of buying my first automobile has had on my life and values. I regularly took pleasure in my work. Being outside, smelling cut grass, sweating, beautifying another’s property, pleasing clients, and witnessing firsthand the fruits of my labor – a manicured lawn – were among the elements of my work that I found not tolerable but exhilarating. I looked forward to working, and, to this day, I have sweet memories of caring for the lawns of my neighbors.

Unquestionably, this experience contributed in part to my current view of work. In particular, I have come to see work, remunerated or not, not as a burden or a curse, but rather as an activity essential to being human. As I see it, any activity that seeks either to develop the social or natural worlds or to restore ways in which those realms have been corrupted is holy and sacred work. Of course, work can be burdensome, but that is different. So long as the drive to work does not exercise dominion over any one of us, work itself is not to be escaped but enjoyed, appreciated, even pursued.

My parents saw in me, at an early age, the potential to accomplish what was not expected of most of my peers. In truth, I am not sure that there exists throughout my childhood a more life-altering course as formative as this one. That I can work and accomplish great projects, indeed complicated endeavors that call for the marshalling of resources, necessitate mutually beneficial relations, and require delayed gratification, is an ordinary thought. For that (and many other things, of course), I am forever grateful to my parents. Would that, with my own children, I demonstrate the same degree and quality of foresight, encouragement, and trust!


Anonymous said...

Man Tyler,

That story is great and shows amazing insight into how your parents shaped your life. I was on the opposite end of your story and it was crippling for many years, still is in some cases. Wow, the importance of this story. This is something Stacie and I have discussed quite often. To make sure that our children know what it takes (work) to get what they want or may need. Man I wish you would write more! Some of us need it brother.

Taylor and Carrie said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I started mowing lawns when I was 13 and mowed about 5-6 lawns per week during the summer until I left for college. There isn't a better job for a teenage guy than cutting lawns during the summer. It gave me a great appreciation for attention to detail (especially when edging and trimming bushes) and taught me a lot about hard work. I still love the smell of a freshly cut lawn and I can't wait to have my own house and lawn that I can take care of soon!