Snow and freezing rain pelted my face. Head down, I trudged through the slush on a dark Tuesday night, a sack of Home Magazines slung over my shoulder. We were already passed delivery deadline. We needed to keep moving.
I turned around to see if the boy was coming. He was. Slowly.
“How’s it going, buddy?”
“Dude. How’s it going?”
He threw his arms up in exasperation and said, “Sucks. I don’t want to be here!”
He didn’t want to be there. But he was there. Come to think of it, I didn’t want to be there either. The weather was miserable. It would have been a whole lot more fun back at the homestead, hunkered down over an episode of “The X Files” on Netflix, a glass of Finnegan’s in my hand. And I'm quite sure he'd rather be with his friends, or playing "Assassin's Creed IV."
Instead, we were out going door to door in the season's first snowstorm, handing out Home Magazines and feeling miserable.
It wasn’t our finest moment ... But we finished — roughly 2 1/2 hours after we started — and then limped back to the car. The drive home was quiet and wet (made slightly less quiet by a pit stop at McDonald’s for McNuggets, the taste of which improves dramatically when you're cold, wet and unhappy.) Mostly, though, we were just glad it was over.
My son is 13. Too young for a fill-out-a-W2 kind of job, but not too young to handle a job like a weekly paper route. He’s not going to get rich with it. But it gives him enough money to buy a video game (or a video game system) when he wants, or a few songs on iTunes, or that wacky “traveling saxophone” thing he bought from an artisan at the Renaissance Festival (a story for another time perhaps.)
Our adventure wasn’t about the money. Come to think of it, the job isn’t really about the money. It’s about life lessons. And I think the boy learned a few that night.
I was watching a YouTube video the other day getting circulated pretty heavily on Facebook. It featured the surprisingly deep thoughts of Mr. Ashton Kutcher (from shows such as "That 70s Show" and the post-Charlie Sheen "Two and a Half Men") and I found myself in the odd position of agreeing wholeheartedly with what he had to say.
The clip featured Kutcher on Ellen DeGeneres' show talking about how a lot of people of his generation — indeed, many of his friends — are “above” doing certain kinds of work. They won’t take a job at Starbucks, for instance, because the work is too menial, not “important” enough for them.
From that clip, it was easy enough to click over to another clip from the Teen Choice Awards on Nikelodeon from a while back where Kutcher, after accepting some meaningless award, used the occasion to remind people that the fame they see worshiped every day, the hype surrounding perceived “wealth,” the priority placed on style instead of substance is, essentially, a bunch of “crap” - his word, not mine.
He told kids they need to create their own opportunities through hard work, that being smart is the sexiest thing imaginable (one could argue whether a discussion of “sexy” was appropriate for the Teen Choice Awards, but let’s not dwell there). And he went on to say that instead of living a life, young people should strive to build a life, a life they’re proud of, not one that’s modeled after something they see on television networks — networks that are merely trying to get their attention and, hence, their money.
Later, on DeGeneres’ show, he took aim at the absurdity of how our society glorifies people who are worshiped for merely being famous. He didn’t call them out by name, but I think he was talking about those famous trendsetters the Kardashians — whose every move is captured on reality TV — who have contributed nothing but vanity and excess to our culture. Their behavior then informs the attitudes of the younger generation, who are then at risk of growing up, in my opinion, a little dumber because of it.
Now, I’m not ready to join the Ashton Kutcher fan club. But I do think it’s odd that his voice seems like a lonely one on this topic. You’ll find a lot of people telling our kids they can be whatever they want to be; you’ll find very few who will say being whatever you want to be can ONLY come from working for it.
I think if we put more priority on a message of hard work and creating your future and life with your intellect, I think there’d be less patience for the “crap” out there.
That’s why the boy and I were out there the other day, trudging through the snow. I help the boy on his route because I’d rather not send him out by himself in the dark in a strange neighborhood, and because I’ve got nothing better to do. But make no mistake; he earned his money that night for doing his job. And while he hated every minute of it and probably still wonders why he was out there, he’ll be better prepared for tackling the real world’s struggles, which can often be a lot worse than a little rain in your face.
Robb Murray can be reached at 344-6386, or email@example.com.