The idea bubbled up not long after my kids’ grandpa helped them each weave their own survival bracelets: eight feet of 500 paracord specially plaited and buckled around their wrists. The idea is that if you were in an emergency situation, you could use it, say, for a tent; a tourniquet; a climbing aid.
But even those neon colors couldn’t outshine the sparkle in my daughter’s eyes when she realized she could start a business with those little bracelets.
I’ll admit that she needed a lot of assistance at the start; this particular venture needed some heavy assistance at the outset. But the skills she learned were worth far more than I ever invested. I helped her craft a budget, where she learned a lot of terms (venture capital! Profit margin!), and implemented some of what she’d read in The Lemonade Wars series. She requested a loan from her dad and me, which she paid back off the top of her profits. She learned the computer skills to craft her own flier, complete with marketing copy and photos. We talked about her target demographic (tourists), and therefore which type of stores would be interested in her product.
But in all this, I gotta tell you—I was most proud when she decided 25% of her profits would go to a project we were working on in Africa. Teaching our kids to work doesn’t have to equal them loving money. It can translate directly to compassion.
My husband had warned me before to help her set her expectations accordingly, which rightfully launched its own flock of butterflies in me after all her work. So it was with no small trepidation I drove her to the center of town, and we hit the streets, me simply holding the door for her and standing by if she didn’t know what to do. She’d practiced her spiel on her grandpa beforehand, and schlepped around for two hours, handing out her fliers and asking to speak to managers. Some kind shoppers even asked to buy the samples she’d toted around on her simple display she’d crafted with her grandpa. We were all astounded with the number of orders she received. And no potential profits could buy the grin on her face when she announced her success to her family.
Of course, the most challenging leg of her business venture came in sacrificing her free time to fulfill orders for thirty-two survival bracelets…particularly when one lacked detail, so she The lessons she learned in perseverance and detail were gleaned double-time. To tell you there were no complaints would be a gross error! But when she delivered them, and received a check made out to her, which she tucked alongside a handful of greenbacks?
As the commercial goes: priceless.
As soon as she arrived triumphantly in the door, all three of her brothers were cooking up ideas for their own businesses. I found this site and this site full of creative ways for kids to use their skills to creatively serve their communities. (Picking up dog poop! Cleaning garages! Housesitting!) And the web’s brimming with more.
This afternoon, my oldest kicked off his snow gear after shoveling the snow off yet another driveway, dancing around the kitchen with the fruits of his labor stuffed in his pocket. (My kids are now learning about wise money management and investing.) My heart melted when he mentioned he’d be helping an elderly woman customer next week whom he’d befriended, but he didn’t want to charge her.
I write this post carefully, because what our kids don’t need is a greater love of money. But connecting direct rewards with work and gleaning the gifts of initiative, knowledge, community, work ethic, and perseverance swells my heart! The Bible is full of wise businessmen (like Abraham and Job), and Jesus Himself speaks of investing not only our money, but presumably all the gifts He’s given us.
Tim Keller writes, “One of the main ways that you love others in your work is through the ‘ministry of competence.’ If God’s purpose for your job is that you serve the human community, then the way to serve God best is to do the job as well as it can be done.”* Or as Lutheran businessman William Diehl puts it, Your work is your prayer. Training our kids in not selfish ambition, but excellence, love of those they serve, and joy in work, is a new form of worship. Even failure has its own lessons for them (for us!).
I have to side with Kristen that there are direct implications to hard workers becoming less entitled. Since my sons started shoveling driveways, they now offer to go out and shovel their grandparents’ pavement as a chore. What was that, Son? You’re offering to do a sweaty, half-hour long chore to serve a family member?
…Okay. Right after I collect my composure.