I’m Reagan and this is Paris, I’m nine and she’s ten. Someone pick-pocketed her and we lost our seven dollars, Paris exclaimed as she pointed to Reagan. We want to earn a few bucks so we can go to Taco Bell, any chance you need some chores done?
They were adorable; two blond hair bright eyed girls that shone with innocence and growing spirits of women to be. I lifted my sunglasses and said, “Sure, how about pulling some weeds for me”? Cool, they shrieked, where do we start?
I led them to the garage, handed each a bucket and hand rake and asked them to follow me to the side yard. We walked along the pebble path that wrapped from the gate to the back deck as I explained that it would be my desire for them to pull out anything that grew in the stones. I showed them how to edge a weed with the corner of the rake to loosen its grip so they could pull out the root as well. I explained that my desired outcome would be to walk down this gravel path and not see any weeds shinning up at me and that I would pay them based on how well they did. Are you in agreement? I asked. “oh yeah, we can do that no problem” Reagan shrieked again.
Their joy was refreshing and I found myself smiling in the overhearing of their exchange as they labored. The song Stand By Me started to play in my head - what a great movie! There is a special beauty and freshness in childhood friendships; they are far less complicated than the merging of two adult lives that have been etched by life.
After twenty minutes, two drink breaks and a potty break, they stated they were done. I loved the opportunity to be a part of their adventure and wanted to somehow convey to them that I admired their willingness to work. I also wanted them to know how worthy they were as young women. I wanted to feed their sense of self, if only for a blink in time.
I looked at my watch. Okay, you’ve been here for close to 20 minutes and you took three small breaks, that means you've worked for about fifteen minutes. Since you are a team, I’d like you to support each other by walking the path before I do, this way you can double check each others work. And, while you are helping each other I want you to think about what you feel your time is worth.
I could see from a quick glance that they had done a fairly good job. There weren’t many weeds in the first place, but it was nice that it was one less thing for me to take care of. As I went in the house to grab my wallet I could hear them chatting, “Oh no, there’s one shinning over there, I think that was your area, so I’ll support you and pull it”. I chuckled to myself as their words mimicked mine.
Upon feeling satisfied, they huddled in the back corner next to the tall lilac bush cupping their hands over each others ears in tandem exchange. A few seconds later they straighten themselves and with unified deliverance they presented their buckets. “We are done and ready for inspection!” Okay then, I said, let’s go!
As we walked the path, I remarked on how nice the sea of grey looked without the volunteer weeds and that I loved how the little glass flat marbles scattered in the path now shone brighter. With big smiles, they agreed. As they followed me like two eager puppies waiting for a treat, I asked, "so did you decide what you feel your time and effort is worth"? There was a pause and as I was thinking to myself they would probably underestimate, I prepared in my mind to give them a bit more than they asked for. Reagan, the presenter of the two firmed her stance, looked me in the eye and said, “I’m smart, but Paris is a bit smarter. I say $20 each, but she says $15 each, so we’ll go with that.
DETOUR!, my mind screamed. What now? I was at a loss for words. Confidence was not ailing here! I felt my mind running a thousand thoughts all at once! Was this a case of over-inflated confidence or a novice understanding of money, and wait...did I even have $30 in my wallet!? Yikes! I opted to challenge the idea that they may not fully understand the value of money and tried to gather my thoughts.
Wow, that’s a lot of money, I responded. “Yes, it is”, Paris offered in a soft but firm voice. “But hey, we did a great job, you said so yourself” spunky Reagan added. It had been 15-20 years since my kids were this age and my quick thinking parenting skills were not as swift as they once were. I had to peddle faster!
I hated the thought of deflating their dreams of being paid enough money to practically buy Taco Bell for a week, but I wasn’t going to pay $30.00 for 15 minutes of weed pulling and I wanted them to understand why. So, the two of you are off to Taco Bell from here, right? They gently moved together with arms touching as if to create a unified stance. "We are", said Reagan. A this point the only thing that came to mind was a math lesson, and so I asked, "So how much do you think that person at Taco Bell behind the counter earns in a hour"? Gee, I don’t know one of them responded.
Well, if they have been there for less than a year, they probably make what we call minimum wage, which is the smallest amount of money the law mandates employers pay those that work for them. If they’ve been there for over a year, sometimes they will earn a bit more as a thank you for their loyalty and hard work. Their eyes got big and their smiles turned to curious stare. I went on, minimum wage in our state is $9.47 per hour. "What the heck, no way"! remarked Reagan with great disapproval. Yep it’s true, I said.
So let’s look at this; you agree you worked about 15 minutes, right? They nodded in agreement. And, even though we’ve only known each other for 20 minutes - not a full year - you two did a great job, right? We did, said Reagan. Okay then I think you should make a bit more than the minimum. Do you agree? Sure, said Reagan all excited and obviously not having done the math.
Paris, the one introduced as the smarter one started to wiggle around a bit and then she spoke up. “Okay, even if you paid us a bit more, we only worked for a forth of the hour, so in reality, we should be paid about two and a half dollars each, right”? Reagan ruffled her nose as if the idea were displeasing. "Good job, Paris", I responded. I probably could have stopped there, but I decided to take this a step further. “And, if that isn’t hard enough to stomach, did you know that the government also takes a percentage of every dollar you make”? Their shoulders started to slump and Reagan said she had no idea. I smiled and quickly added that it is a good thing I’m not an official employer or the government!
With her new found wisdom, Paris offered a suggestion. “How about you pay us five dollars total and we call it good”? Hmmm...I think that is fair, do you agree Reagan? Her upbeat personality continued to reveal itself. “Five bucks sounds great, you can still get a lot at Taco Bell for five bucks”! And with that she pulled out her wallet.
I handed Reagan the five dollars I had already prepared and then I handed them both an additional dollar and told them that I believed they were both worth more than “minimum”. We are, smile Reagan and man oh man, I think adult life is not going to be fun!
I smiled, and with a chuckle I said, "Oh I have a feeling that you will make it fun, my dear”! With a quick pivot of her foot, Reagan whirled around as if to head off on her Taco Bell adventure, she looked back over her shoulder, gave a little wink and said, “I think you’re right!"
I smiled - all will be well, our future is in great hands!