After school the following day I returned to Mrs. Griffin’s house to finish shoveling the walk. Had she even noticed the little bit I had already cleaned or, perhaps, she had not opened her front door yesterday. Having been frightfully startled at the sight of Mrs. Story opening her door to me the previous day, I decided I should ask permission before I continued. I gave a hearty knock on the glass storm door and was rewarded by a slight opening of the inside wooden door.
“Hello, Mrs. Griffin. I just wanted to ask you if I could finish shoveling the snow off your sidewalk. I did the little bit in front over by the curb yesterday but I didn’t have time to clear the sidewalk here that runs from your step out to the curb. May I do that for you?” To my great surprise, the door did not open one inch more than it already was—about three inches.
“What do you want? How much will I have to pay you to do that little bit of work?” Hmmm, well, she was not as pleasant as Mrs. Story had been, for sure, but she was probably afraid of people. Lots of old people were.
“Oh, Mrs. Griffin, you don’t need to pay me anything. I just would like to clear the snow so that you will not slip and fall on the walk if you need to go out for some reason. I will do it as fast as I can but, actually, I have just learned to shovel snow so I am not all that fast yet.” Well, the door never did open any further and with a gruff acquiescence to my request, she shut and locked the wooden door. I worked as fast as I could and headed home.
Thus began my seasonal career in snow removal. I always asked if I could clear the sidewalks for the elderly folks in our neighborhood and never “charged” them for the work, though they often did reward me with a dime or a quarter. I did not mind it either way, in the beginning. By the second season of snow, however, I found I was getting annoyed with those folks who did not give me what I thought the job should earn and really resented those folks who gave me nothing. I did not mention it to my mother, though, as it was very clear to me that she expected me to volunteer to help the elderly people with their sidewalks.
One morning I was clearing the snow at the home of a lady I knew would not pay me anything and I decided to just clear a strip of the sidewalk and not fully do the job. Good enough echoed through my thoughts. The funny thing was that when I had finished the single strip and started to leave for the next “paying” customer, my tummy began to hurt. I stopped and looked back at what I had done. Good enough, came to mind again and then a question followed: Is it really good enough? Of course, I knew it was not good enough since I had not done my best. Was I doing the work to help the elderly people or to fill my piggybank? With the wind starting to blow, that one strip would be covered easily by the remaining snow if I just left it. Still, I began to move away, with my thoughts on the next job. I didn’t get far, though. My tummy hurt so much and all joy I had ever had over my snow removal efforts had fled like a thief in the night. What’s the point of a dime if I have to feel so badly that I don’t even want whatever it could buy me? It is amazing just how happy I felt as I turned around and did one of my best jobs on that sidewalk, the second time around!
I would later learn a Bible passage that would explain this Godly principle for me and it remains one of my favorites:
I very much enjoyed all of my snow removal jobs after this isolated incident and found it a profitable business, in spite of the pro bono work! One day my heart just about burst out of my chest when I stood before the grocery clerk at the little corner store and heard him tell my mother, “If you need more money to buy this other package, too, why not just ask your little money bags here for a loan?” The whole neighborhood knew of my venture and, while my mother and Mr. Weber laughed, I just felt about as good as any little kid could ever feel at that very moment.
(Wondering what a dime or a quarter could buy in the 50’s? Mostly I saved the money but a quarter could buy a quart of milk with money left over for three pieces of bubble gum. A dime could buy two candy bars. Minimum wage? Not a clue but ten years later I would have a “real” job at minimum wage that paid $1.15/hour!)
****Have a great weekend!