More Than Money
Issue #36

Money and Work

Table of Contents

“Lieben Und Arbeiten”

by Bob Kenny

Bob Kenny, Ed.D, is the executive director of More Than Money. For more than 20 years he has worked with individuals, communities, and organizations to identify and address the gaps between their stated values and the realities of their lives.

Sigmund Freud believed that in order to be happy a person needs to be able to do two things: lieben und arbeiten —love and work. Others have suggested that happiness may perhaps require some love of work and some working at love. For many of us, adolescence is a time when we begin to learn about both.

I got my first real job when I was 12 years old. I was a golf caddy. I thought it was just about the best job in the whole wide world. I had been fascinated by golf at a very young age, and when I was eight, my father gave me my first golf club. It was a Spaulding five iron modified for a child (which means it was short). I loved it; but as I grew older, I wanted a “real set of clubs.” Friends of my parents suggested that I caddy at the local golf course. I could learn more about golf and earn some money. This seemed like a pretty good idea.

I caddied all summer. By August, I had saved enough money to buy my own set of clubs. They were beautiful— in a black bag, with red covers for the “woods.” Pretty spiffy, and I had bought them myself.

For the rest of the summer, I played as often as I could. I caddied during the day, played in the evening, and then walked home. Did I love my job? What job? I was doing what I loved and I loved every minute of it. Sometimes my mother would ask me not to go to the club, to stay home. I remember thinking that it was nice she wanted me around, but I needed to go to work. People were counting on me to make sure their bags were prepped. And who would find Dr. Wilson’s lost ball? Besides, I had to practice. (I was too young to play with the other caddies. They were all older than I and were much better players, but I didn’t care.) Often, I played alone as the sun set. I loved golf and I loved my job.

You can imagine my excitement when, last spring, my son began to talk about getting a job! Of course I suggested being a caddy, telling him all the reasons it would be terrific. I wanted him to have the same wonderful experience I had. Maybe we could even play a few rounds together. Wouldn’t that be perfect?

My son had been to the driving range with me, so I knew he had a natural and wonderful swing. He would be a superb golfer. He could become a caddy; we could play together; all this wonderful bonding would take place, and…it didn’t happen. There was one basic problem: He doesn’t like golf. He likes hockey. In fact, he loves hockey, and always has. (Maybe swinging at something something with a stick is in our gene pool?) As a toddler, one of his first words was Zamboni. Now a teenager, he plays hockey as much as he can. Last summer, he studied Latin in the morning and got in shape for hockey in the afternoon. Now, he looks so comfortable on ice I sometimes think he could sleep there. When I suggested he get a job as a golf caddy, I learned that although there are a lot of similarities between golf and hockey, mostly there are differences.

This year, I came up with a few new suggestions for jobs that I thought would be terrific. Not much response. Then I stopped and thought “Maybe I should ask him what he wants from a job.” His reply was simple: “Money.”

“Money for what?” I asked.

He wasn’t sure what he would do with the money, other than, “buy stuff.” So we talked about that for a while without much apparent progress. (I knew we would have to have lots more money conversations, but right now my task was to help him get the job.)

He had picked up a job application or two at places I had suggested, but had not yet filled them out. I could tell he was trying to please his parents. He was trying to muster up enough steam to get a job that would satisfy his parents and that would give him money for “stuff.”

The other day, I asked him about his plans for Friday night.

“Going over to Peter’s,” he answered.

“To do what?” I asked.

“Peter and I are going over to the hockey rink and shoot around. Mr. Bentley is there. He was our coach when we were kids. He runs a clinic in the summer for little kids. We’re going to hang around and see if we can help him this summer.”

In other words, he had a job interview. I stopped probing and felt a rush of emotion. Of course. He was exploring his passion.

I said I thought that was terrific. I don’t know how things will turn out at that clinic and with that coach, but I hope my son continues to follow his passion. Right now, hockey is his work and his passion, and that is what I need to support. After all, that’s my job.

Fortunately, it’s also my passion.