I was not trying to start a business; it just happened. At eight years old, I hated wearing that dreadful snowsuit. Mom’s cheerful admonition to “Have fun!”, while pushing my totally insulated, now super-sized bulk out the door always convinced me that only one of us would be having fun in the next hour and it wasn’t going to be me.
The winter of ’57 would be different from all previous years, however, because I had learned how to shovel snow. In fact, I had vowed to shovel for the rest of my life when my mother said the snowsuit was too hot to wear when shoveling.
About a week after learning the new skill, my mother gave me permission to shovel the sidewalks of the elderly Mrs. Foster’s corner lot. She lived on the other side of our block and it was obvious no one was clearing them.
Along the way I crossed in front of Mrs. Griffin’s and noticed quite a lot of snow on her walks, too. At first, I just kept walking passed; but, then I turned around and began to clear that small strip by the curb. Remembering that the permission given was for Mrs. Foster’s sidewalks, I resolved to finish this job if I had time later. The little strip cleared, I continued on my way.
Up one side and down the other I pushed, puffed and panted my way to nicely cleared sidewalks on both the South and East of Mrs. Foster’s property. On the front porch, I was ever-so careful not to make any more noise than necessary, just in case the older lady might be napping. Suddenly I startled and froze in place as the front door opened. Yikes! I should have asked permission to be on her property, I told myself in panic. She might call the cops.
“Oh, thank you, little girl. In all the years I have lived here, no one has ever done such a nice thing for me.” I declined her kind offer of a cup of tea--my shivering was not from cold--in favor of just finishing the job. I was so relieved when she said I need only do one side of the walk from her door to the curb. Reaching the curb with that last shovel full of snow, I turned my weary self around only to see Mrs. Foster on her doorstep signaling me to come to the porch. Oh no, I thought, does she want me to do the other side of the sidewalk after all. I am about to drop.
“Here,” Mrs. Foster said, indicating that she had something to give me, “I want you to have this.” Yanking off my wet glove, I held my chilly, pink palm out to her. There lay a brand new quarter. The very first wage I had ever earned in my whole life! I thanked her and fairly skipped down her front steps, shovel slung over my shoulder and a smile stuck to my face all the way home.
After school the next day, I returned to Mrs. Griffin’s house and began by seeking her permission. It took quite a few hard knocks before the door opened just a crack.
“What do you want?” The gruffness in the voice that came from behind the nearly closed door scared me half to death. Trembling, praying that my increased heart rate would not be too much for an eight-year-old, I answered the voice.
“I j-just w-wanted to ask you if I could finish the work I began yesterday.”
“And, just how much is that little bit of work going to cost me?” the disembodied voice barked.
“N-nothing at all, Ma’am. I just don’t want you to fall on the slippery walk.” The slight opening in the door closed and that was that. Shrugging my shoulders, I took up my usual position at the shovel: standing next to it, both hands carefully positioned down the shaft to give my short stature the angle I needed to scoop up the snow. Without another glance, I cleared her stoop, steps and walk. As I turned to head home, the front door never moved. Well, no quarter from this job, I told myself.
Throughout that and subsequent winters, my snow shoveling business netted me a nice profit, even with the pro bono work thrown in. I, still, believe Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men.”
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