Traverse City Record-Eagle

Generation Why

July 6, 2010

Working for a goal a worthwhile lesson

There comes a time in any teen's life when they decide to venture out into the economic jungle with a summer job. I can remember the butterflies that were fluttering through my 14-year-old tummy as I searched Elk Rapids for gainful employment. My parents had encouraged me to get a job and save money for major expenses that would be floating my way soon; the most important of these expenses at that time was of course, a car.

I started at the bakery; I always have had a love for cookies and doughnuts. But as soon as I heard about the extremely early hours, I knew that that was not the occupation for me.

Next came the hardware store. I was imagining how good I would look in a red vest and tool belt. The idea of helping out weekend warriors with their projects seemed as exciting as it was noble. But my heart sank as soon as my young voice asked for an application; at the bottom, it read "must be 18 or older." So much for my career as Bob Villa.

I was just about to give up as I hopped on my bike, wondering if that Huffy would be my only means of transit during my high school career. But then, almost magically, the owner of the local ice cream shop placed a "Help Wanted" sign in their front window. Elated, I sprang inside and inquired about the posting. The owner told me that they were indeed hiring, and took my phone number and name then politely told me that he would call back.

The next few days went by rather slowly. I kept praying that he would call and invite me to learn the business. My wishes were answered in a voicemail the next day; it simply told me to come down after school and see him for training.

I was under the impression that "training" would be a pamphlet or video, but when an ice cream scoop was put in my hand, I knew that it was sink or swim. My skinny arms strained against the solid frozen mass of chocolate I was attempting to scoop. I was worried that my body would not be able to handle this job. But the boss man came over, and showed me the proper technique, and soon, I was a scooping fool.

That first summer of employment will never leave my mind, I can remember putting my checks right into the bank and watching it grow to enough to purchase a car. The satisfaction that stems from working for something and achieving it cannot be described. And that Ford Taurus, with the rust on the fender, was as sweet as any sports car could ever be, because it was all paid for with my hard work.

Dan Berck is a student at Elk Rapids High School.

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