Paper Boy No More

New Year’s Day was the first day in 15+ years that one of my sons didn’t trudge out to deliver papers.

One paper route passed down through three boys.  With their earnings from the route, they purchased:

Three cars
One truck
Three motorcycles
One mountain bike
A snowboard
A computer

The car was always the first big purchase.  Our only rule was “Pay Cash.”  By the time each guy was 15 and had a permit, he had found a car to buy and had saved enough money for it.  They all loved counting out those hundred dollar bills.

Sometimes the route was a pain in the patootie.  How many times did a son suddenly realize–the night before we were leaving for a trip–he had forgotten to get a substitute?  Frantic phone calls followed.  It has become harder than ever to find a reliable sub.  There were no Sunday papers.  The only other day off was Christmas Day.  Sports schedules and fun activities had to be worked around the daily need to deliver the (afternoon) papers.

But many great lessons were learned. 

The biggest lesson, I believe, was respect.  We have many older folks on our route, for whom receiving the paper is The Highlight of their day.  Each boy had to be taught to respect his customers even when he thought it was lame to be so attached to ink and paper.  Learning the preferences of 50-70 subscribers took patience and perserverance. 

Another lesson was courage.  One grouchy lady scared Chris so much, he didn’t collect from her for six months!  He would rather pay for her paper himself than ask her for money.  (We found that out waaaay after the fact!) One man-curmudegeon would be too kind of a word-opened the door, saw a young boy and never failed to respond: “What the #*$&% do you want?”  Carson inadvertently missed collecting from him for several months; with shaking knees he had to explain and ask for the back money owed.  Even I was scared; but I made him deal with it himself!

The boys also had to be taught discretion.  I checked the Sexual Offenders list to see who might be living on our route.  I wanted them to be wary of too-friendly neighbors. 

Organization is the key to life, my sister-in-law says.  Learning to keep track of payments was an important part of the job.  Carson did his best to convert as many customers to “Office Pay” before he handed the route to Collin.  “Collecting” was the bane of the boys.  I couldn’t believe the few folks who tried to stiff the boys, put them off, continually ask them to come back. 

Friendship was the biggest benefit. So often when I took my turn substituting, customers along the way would stop me to compliment the boys, ask about the older ones or just chat.  If Collin took longer than usual collecting, I knew that he was in the living room of one of our neighbors telling hunting stories. A while back when Carson and Taryn were home for a visit, we saw Mrs. Whitmore working in her front yard.  We stopped the car and said hi (she always liked Carson a lot) and introduced Taryn to her.  A few months later she died of a stroke.  We have enjoyed the kind comments and notes from customers.  I sigh; I say Yay!  The end of an era has arrived. 

Unswerving Fidelity

~ from the archives – and especially for my friend Hope at Worthwhile Books ~

This morning I grabbed a book to read while I worked out on the elliptical machine.  The biggest requirement was that it would lay flat on the little stand.  A hardback would do better, especially one with a loose binding.  A quick check of the stacks of books waiting to be read made Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather my choice.  It is set in Quebec in 1697.  The main characters so far are the widowed apothecary and his daughter.

Many of you know that I lost my mom suddenly when I was 10 years old.  I read this passage with tender emotion.  I’ve abridged it here and there.

After she began to feel sure that she would never be well enough to return to France, her chief care was to train her little daughter so that she would be able to carry on this life and this order after she was gone.

Madame Auclair never spoke of her approaching death, but would say something like this:

      “After a while, when I am too ill to help you, you will perhaps find it fatiguing to do all these things alone, over and over.  But in time you will come to love your duties, as I do.  You will see that your father’s whole happiness depends on order and regularity, and you will come to feel a pride in it.  Without order our lives would be disgusting.”

She would think fearfully of how much she was entrusting to that little head; something so precious, so intangible; a feeling about life that had come down to her through so many centuries and that she had brought with her across the ocean. The sense of “our way,” –that was what she longed to leave with her daughter.

The individuality, the character, of M.Auclair’s house, though it appeared to be made up of wood and cloth and glass and a little silver, was really made up of very fine moral qualities in two women: the mother’s unswerving fidelity to certain traditions, and the daughter’s loyalty to her mother’s wish.

Isn’t that wonderful?  The last paragraph is so lovely.  Have any of you read Willa Cather?  My Antonia is my favorite, but this is perhaps the fifth book of hers that I’ve read.

Something Must Be Done

Thank God every morning,
when you get up,
that you have something to do that day
which must be done…

Work will breed in you temperance and self-control,
diligence and strength of will,
cheerfulness and content,
and a hundred virtues
which the idle never know.

~ Charles Kingsley

*photo taken from my kitchen window this morning

Idleness, laziness, sloth…
call it what you will,
it is one of my besetting sins.
Like a malignant tumor,
laziness grows tendrils deep within me.
I can sit here and write about it,
and not see the dirty floor around me.

Does this quote strike you as inspiring or judgmental?

God Loves Clean Floors

Update: Evidently the source of this quote can’t be found because Martin Luther didn’t really say it! Please see the links in the Vanessa’s comments below.

I’ve posted this quote before, but here’s another sentence to add.  And, frankly, I need the reminder.  I still don’t know the source of this quote, other than Martin Luther.  This quote is found in Mark Buchanan’s book The Rest of God, a book I’d highly recommend.

The maid who sweeps her kitchen
is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays–
not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps
but because God loves clean floors.
The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty
not by putting little crosses on the shoes,
but by making good shoes,
because God is interested in good craftmanship.
~ Martin Luther


Looking Over the Edge

You must be sure of two things: you must love your work, and not be always looking over the edge of it, wanting your play to begin. 

And the other is, you must not be ashamed of your work, and think it would be more honourable to you to be doing something else.   You must have a pride in your own work and in learning to do it well, and not be always saying, There’s this and there’s that – if I had this or that to do, I might make something of it.  No matter what a man is – I wouldn’t give twopence for him – here Caleb’s mouth looked bitter, and he snapped his fingers – whether he was the prime minister or the rick-thatcher, if he didn’t do well what he undertook to do.    

~ George Eliot in

This last week before school begins, this week before we celebrate those who labor by goofing off, I’m thinking about work, praying and preparing for long, hard days ahead.  I confess that I do look over the edge of my work.  Just this morning I was yearning for the opportunity to read something “just for fun” aka  self-indulgent stuff.   The summer has come and will soon be over.  I have two years left of home schooling and I would surely like to “learn to do it well” without excuses (“there’s this and there’s that”) or whining.

Gearing Up to Labor

It is not only prayer that gives God glory, but work.  Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty.  To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives him glory too.   To lift up hands in prayer gives God gory, but a man with a dungfork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail gives him glory too.  His is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should.  So then, my brethren, live.
                          ~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Principle or Foundation