Working, dreaming and longing | Mark’s Remarks


I just saw a commercial for Folger’s coffee. It depicts a little boy putting his small change into a coffee can. On the can is a label on which he has scrawled, “new mitt.” After several scenes of him dropping money into the can, we see him with the new mitt.  He had to wait. He had to “save up.”

Remember when you were young and you saved your pennies? Saving was half the fun. Getting the money out and counting it over and over. Eventually, you’d saved enough for some small purchase. But heck, it was worth it.

My sons used to go to a local pizza place that offered tickets when their barrage of video games were conquered. If you got to a certain level of expertise, you could get more tickets.  Then, you could use your tickets to buy trinkets and worthless plastic crap (my words, not theirs). They had their heart set on a disco ball, one that when plugged in would project colored lights all over their room. They saved their change, bought video tokens and eventually saved enough tickets that they were able to buy that disco ball.

Sure, it was plastic and cheap, but it was what they had worked for. And they were proud.

All of us worked jobs in high school.  Before that, many of us mowed lawns or babysat and invariably someone would come to school with something new; a new pair of cool tennis shoes or article of clothing. Some of us saved up for sporting equipment or a trip we took.  There were few of us back in the day who didn’t know the value of saving up and waiting for a purchase.

I had two good friends in school who were twins.  They did everything together and a friendship with them was a package deal. 

They could get a lot more ground covered, there being two of them, so I was in awe of their cash flow.  You see, the two of them not only mowed lawns together but also were able to snag one of the most coveted jobs in town for those of us in our early teens; carry-out boy at Food Park.  At that point, in the early 1980s, such a job could pay $50 a week. In my eyes, they were millionaires.

They also turned 16 several months before I did, so I wasn’t surprised one day when they pulled into my driveway in a little brown, beat-up Datsun. It chugged away in the driveway and they both hopped out, grinning ear to ear.

Both of them had gone up to the bank, deposited the money they’d earned, and opened up an account.  With a little help from their parents, they were able to secure a modest auto loan and they proudly showed me their little payment book. 

We tooled around in that car quite a bit, and then it was time to get my own license. I was lucky my dad had purchased an old car from the late 1970s that was in pretty good shape.  Compared to my friends, I had it rather easy.  

To tell you the truth, I still felt a little jealous of them. And a bit guilty.

I got to experience bills and car payments soon enough, but I’m not sure I was equipped for it at all.  Am I blaming my parents for giving me things? No way.  But I will say my friends who scrimped and saved for things had an advantage and I’ve no doubt they are still managing their money well today.

As I drive through the parking lot of the high school in the affluent community I teach in, I notice brand new cars and kiddos popping out of them in fancy duds. I had a kid tell me the other day his shoes cost $200.

Do I fault parents for buying their kids brand-new cars? Am I jealous I can’t do the same? No to both. I completely understand parents wanting to give their children things.  I’ve gone overboard before and given my children too much even when they didn’t work for it or seem grateful. As parents, we often want to give our kids everything and make things easier. Not always a good attitude.

I am of the opinion that kids need to dream of having things, perhaps even things that are unattainable.  I think they need to long for things and experiences and they certainly need to be exposed to “saving up” for something.  

All of these will help shape them into adults who are more responsible, content and realistic.

Who’s with me?

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