It was 5:45 in the morning and I rose to the screaming of my alarm clock. Usually at this time on a Saturday morning, I would still be curled up in my cozy covers dreaming, but this Saturday was different. A week prior, Bud, a seventy-year-old man who lived down the street, had asked me to do some work for him; I foolishly agreed. Even though it was still dark outside, I could already tell it was going to be a scorching hot day. As I dragged my half-asleep body through the dark street, the air was thick and muggy. I imagined myself hours from now, sweat seeping down my face. When I arrived at Bud’s house, I was in awe over a mountain of granite piled on Bud’s long driveway. I thought to myself, “What in God’s name is Bud going to make me do?” Distracted by the enormous mountain in front of me, I failed to notice a guy my age standing on the driveway.
“Hey, I’m Andrew,” the kid yelled to me, catching my attention. “I’m Bud’s grandson.”
Relieved that I would not be working alone, I shouted back to him, “Hey, I’m Chad!”
Before we had a chance to talk, Bud strolled towards the two of us. “You boys are going to have some fun today,” he smiled. “Today, you’re going to be moving this here granite into my backyard.”
I began to get nervous and I thought to myself, “Was this guy serious? There is no way the two of us will be able to move all of that granite!”
Bud tossed each of us a pair of dirty, tattered gardening gloves and yelled, “Alright, get to work! There are some shovels and wheelbarrows in the garage.” Andrew and I looked at each other in mutual agony as we prepared to dig into the mountain of rock before us.
“I think my grandpa is crazy!” Andrew said, “We will never be able to move all this in one day!”
“Yea, I’m pretty sure he is,” I replied, “but we might as well try.”
Andrew and I dug away at the hard rock hour after hour. After about five hours of nonstop shoveling, Andrew looked at me with brown dirt smeared across his face and said, “I don’t think I can do anymore, my arms are throbbing and the sun is cooking me alive!”
I felt the same way, but in the back of my head, I knew I could not let him know. “Don’t worry man, were almost done, in a couple hours this pile will be gone. We’re already done with most of it!” With those words of encouragement, Andrew swung his metal shovel back into the hard granite and continued working. Andrew and I clawed away at that mountain for four more hours, until what lay before us was nothing but a few tiny pebbles. We had succeeded; we had moved all the granite in one day!
Bud calmly walked outside with lemonade in hand, “Well done boys, you did a good job.” He reached into the pocket of his dirty blue jeans and pulled out two wrinkled hundred dollar bills. “Here’s a hundred for each of you.” As he handed me that money,
I was overjoyed. My hands were throbbing, and I noticed that they had bulging pink blisters forming all over them. At that time, I wanted nothing more in the world than to sprint back to my house and pass out on the couch. After saying goodbye to Andrew and Bud, I headed home with a deep sigh of relief.
Although my nose was burnt from the sun, I woke up the next day feeling extremely accomplished. Remembering my hundred dollar reward, I decided to go put the money I had made in the bank. With the money in hand, I got in my old beat up truck and began the short drive downtown to the bank. The outside air cooled my face as I felt the bass of the blasting music. Just as I reflected that I could not feel any better, the crinkled hundred dollar bill in my hand slipped through my swollen fingers and flew out the window. In fury I slammed on my breaks, almost causing an accident, and flipped my car around. How could I do such a stupid thing? I got out of the car where I thought the money may have landed on the road and began desperately searching, but the money was no where to be found! After almost an hour on my hands and knees, I finally threw in the towel. I got back in my car and robotically drove home in shock over what had just happened. I could not believe I did all that work for nothing!
After a few weeks of sulking, I had finally begun to get over the fact that I had lost the money and began to reflect on the whole incident. As I contemplated my loss, I realized something important. Even though I had lost the money, I had still gained something very important from the work at Bud’s. The task that I had completed was something I never thought I would be able to do. Even when Andrew was ready to give up, I inspired him and myself to keep going. The experience taught me that you can never be sure about what you can accomplish until you give it a try. Before working that grueling Saturday at Bud’s, I felt that work was something you only did in exchange for a material reward; however, I now know that work is much more than that. Work is something you do to gain a better understanding of yourself; it is an essential character building skill that can change your life.