When the Job is Done

by Jurgen Haver

My son Jason wanted a new bike. I told him, “That’s great. You can earn the money for it this weekend.”

He thought that meant he’d breeze through some light chores like raking up a small pile of leaves. Then off to the store he’d go.

“Not so fast,” I said. Eleven-year-olds are more than ready to know about real work and real contracts. I told him we would put in writing what was to be done and how much money each chore would be worth.

So we sat down together on Friday, man to man, and the agreement was drawn up and signed. Then Jason headed outside to start the job. He was going to rake the leaves, trim the bushes, clear away dead branches, stir the compost and fertilize around the trees.

At dinnertime he said, “Dad, can I have my money now?” He wanted to go with his friend on a shopping trip.

“Your contract isn’t finished. When the work is done, the worker is paid,” I said. He wanted to argue, but he could see that would be no use.

The next morning he set out for work. But when the sun turned hot he came inside asking, “Can I have my money now?”

“When the work is done the worker is paid,” I said.

“Can’t I get an advance on what I’m owed?” he asked. But I reminded him that I was once eleven years old. Enough said. There was no need to argue. I had a mantra to repeat: “When the work is done, the worker is paid.”

Jason came back to me two more times that Saturday asking to be paid. But each time we went outside and looked over his work. Pointing to the pile of leaves, I repeated my phrase.

That evening, when Jason stumbled onto the couch, he was too tired to think about money. But when he said, “It’s done,” I knew he was telling the truth. The next day when I paid him, I asked about his shopping plans. He hesitated. He was beginning to think his hard-earned money shouldn’t be spent too quickly.

Although Jason is now grown up and raising children of his own, he still remembers that weekend. And he’s never tried to shirk work since the days of the Yard Work Contract.

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16 years ago

One summer when my son Jace was about 12 we had a major task of moving about ten cubic yards of dirt a short distance. After the heavy work of jack-hammering was done, it was his job to move it away.

I gave him the task of moving just ten, 5-gallon buckets each week day, (5 trips), whenever he felt it was best for him and it would take no more than 20 minutes each day. At the start he protested at how hard the task was, and how unfair it was to make him work so hard.

On some days near the begininning he would put off the word until just before supper and be so mad that it still had to be done. Near the half-way point his shoulders were noticably bigger and the protests tapered off. At the end he was even proud to see how much work he had accomplished.

And now with a family of his own, he has faced some major tasks with a determination and resolution that even I must admire. He has learned that he can move mountains when he can break it into workable loads and keep at it until it’s done.

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