I’ll give you something to think about

In Ontario, in order to graduate high school, you have to have logged a minimum of 40 hours of volunteer time. So, one of my projects when we moved to Ottawa was to find some interesting places for my daughter to do some volunteer work.

One thing I found was a community centre near our place that offers an after-school-program for elementary school kids who were looking for volunteers. “Go volunteer,” I tell the kid at the beginning of last year. “Whyyyyyyyyyyyy?” she whines. “I’m only in grade 9 and I don’t need the hours for 4 more years.”

Oh, short-sighted one, I tell her, get the mandatory hours out of the way now because in the next 3 years you’re going to want a part-time job and won’t have that much time to volunteer. Plus you’ll be able to rack up a whole pile of hours here and then have lots of time over the next 3 years to get extra hours. (Also, there’s some sort of scholarship in Grade 12, I understand for kids who have put in a lot of volunteer time and we need all the help we can get to pay for university since Ordinary Joe isn’t pitching in anytime soon). Plus plus it’s good for you.

Plus plus plus,  if you play your cards right, they might hire you next year. It would be a great job. Close by, no weekends or holidays and the possibility of summer work when they run their summer camps.

So, off she trudges to volunteer 3 afternoons a week. Before the year is even over they offer her a part-time job after school. So now she already has tons of volunteer hours, and she’s working there 4 afternoons a week for nine bucks an hour.

This summer I signed her up for a leadership course run by the city. One month, every weekday – the idea is to train up some teenagers to qualify them for summer day camp positions run by the city. They get their CPR certification and some other kid supervision certificate thing. It cost over 500 bucks for 4 weeks, but they got a swell t-shirt, too.

 “Whyyyyyyyy do I have to spend half my summer there?” the kid whines. “Here’s your bus pass. Shut up and go,” I say.

She ended up loving it, making lots of new friends, wishing she could go for another month and everyone cried and hugged and exhanged Facebook names when the camp was over.

So now the people who run the leadership camp are developing some other camps for younger kids and they’ve asked some of the teens from the summer if they’d be interested in working there next summer. They’ve both emailed and sent a letter to my kid.

I’m excited for her. “Did you tell them yes?” I ask. “I told them I’d think about it,” she says blithely, waving me off.


“Well, I’ll probably just stay working where I am now. It’s closer.”

PROBABLY? Has she had a firm offer from them for the summer? No. Does she have any idea how freakin’ lucky she is at barely sixteen to have not one, but TWO very good possibilities for summer employment for jobs that not only pay pretty well but are fun and relatively easy where she doesn’t have to work nights, weekends or holidays?

“What?” She says.

I spent my teenage summers like something out of Grapes of Wrath, with my head up fruit trees. Sticky, hot, humid days outdoors from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, covered in sour cherry juice, peach fuzz, bugs, twigs and pesticides; climbing up and down ladders, strapped into an itchy harness attached to heaving baskets of fruit.  And I’d get paid by the basket, not by the hour.

Wednesdays and Saturdays I’d get up at 3:00 am to help load a truck and drive two hours to market where I’d stand all day out in the sun hawking fruit. And a few nights a week,  I’d go babysitting for fun. And, I’d come out of the whole summer with enough money to maybe buy a new pair of Earth Shoes for back-to-school.