Variety of experiences, including hard work, does pay off

The Examiner

Perhaps the most common single lament I hear from business owners is the difficulty in finding good employees who are dependable and willing to work.

The common refrain is that young people just don’t want to work these days.

Ken Garten

I hate to generalize about any group of people, even the young, of whom I am insanely jealous about their freedom, energy, ease of fitness and insanely low health insurance rates. But I have, on occasion, noticed an attitude.

In some instances, it has been implied by certain young people that I, a highfalutin lawyer, could have no idea how awful it would be to be expected to do the kind of work that’s widely available to those willing to get off the couch and go do it.

On the contrary, I’d like to say. Few have the varied work history of my youth, distinguished by its menial difficulty and absence of joy or glamor.

Like the summer I turned 14. I worked full time for a farmer who grew crops and raised hogs on a large scale. That was a most interesting and challenging summer.

Much of my time that summer was spent mixing a special type of plaster in a wheelbarrow for the Amish masons building cement block hog barns.

We also had the fun of tramping through the hog barns with “hog panels,” plywood sheets with handles so you could herd the hogs with the chalk marks on their backs to the corner of the shed with the chute that would take them up to the truck to market.

That was fun.

Perhaps the best part of that summer was getting to know the Amish gentlemen I worked with, me a young adolescent kid and they being the mysterious, bearded men who drove horses and buggies around rural north Missouri. But that summer, I learned that they were truly not dark and mysterious as I had always assumed but the nicest people you could ever meet, and I learned so much working alongside them that summer.

The next year, I elevated my status to fry chef at a fast-food joint. You get awfully close to the guys and gals you work late night fast food with. You have to, because you all smell like french fries after you get off work, and nobody else will hang out with you. It wasn’t glamorous, but provides cherished memories.

And then I turned 16, which meant one thing for many a kid in Trenton, Missouri in the 1970s: Hy-Vee. Big money. $2.50 an hour. And, they’ll work around your school sports and activities schedule. I did that for a year and a half, like about half the young men in town.

After taking the first part of my senior year off work to focus on sports, I got a job at the MFA oil store, pumping gas, changing oil and fixing and replacing tires, including big truck tires with explodable steel split rim wheels. Talk about hard, dirty work.

I also worked a summer for the rural water district laying water pipe alongside a backhoe and trencher throughout rural Grundy County, Missouri, and worked breaks and summers in college doing construction for a contractor and washing semi-tractors and trailers for a trucking company.

Yes, I did a lot of different types of work in my youth, much of it hard, dirty, and less than lucrative. And if you would have told me then that someday I would have a nice job in a comfortable, air-conditioned office, I might have said I would never complain about a thing if that could happen. Sorry. I can’t say I would have totally held up to such a promise.

But when I look back at all the jobs I’ve had, and work I’ve done, in farming, food, trucking, and construction, I can honestly say I don’t remember a bad day of work, and I learned lessons from each situation that have helped me ever since.

So to all the young people out there planted on the couch, do yourselves a favor. Go find a job. Give it a try. You might just find that it will not only put a little cash in your pocket, but improve your life in other ways too.            

Ken Garten is a Blue Springs attorney. Email him at krgarten@yahoo.com.