“Paychecks will be out Friday,” said the woman in the store.

Oddly enough, when I heard that word, it took me aback. It had been awhile since I’d heard it referred to as such. Many a memory stirred within. Not sure they even pass them out as direct deposit has sorta-kinda taken over. However, I do recall getting one…a paycheck that is.

Satisfying it was to get paid for the work done. Nothing came without work and nothing was given without working for it in some manner. It was gratifying. You worked; you earned. That’s how you got stuff back in the day.

I recall going to the bank with my paychecks. All proper like you’d stand in line until the teller called you by name. The first one I ever received was for thirty bucks. No doubt it was evidence of two weeks’ worth of work right there on that piece of paper. Yes, paychecks were not only proof that you’d earned it, but earned a little self-respect as well. It spoke and still speaks that when you give of your time, others appreciate what you have to give.

That $30 I earned was as a waitress at The Hometown Cafe. When it was my shift, the boss could then go home in order to tend to his family. The customers entering relaxed and enjoyed a cup of coffee with a little friendly conversation. Families stopped in for refueling as did the city workers, many a store manager in town, teachers on break, and on it went. I served so they could serve others and because they served others, they, too, collected a paycheck.

Truth is, there wasn’t any other way to get money that I remember. If you were able, you worked. And as you did, you contributed to those around you by doing just that…working. And because you had a paycheck, you could purchase things and it just felt good to earn what you got.

That’s just how the six of us were raised. You worked.

Dad didn’t hand over money when needed…but he did offer work and embedded self-respect for each of us by sending the message we were capable of earning it. Personally, it empowered me to know my parents thought I was capable of making my way in this world and doing so by contributing to the world at large.

I set the alarm, got up on Saturday mornings after a full week of school and went to work. If I didn’t…I didn’t have money. That was the end of it and at the same time, it was the beginning of teaching me that I, indeed, was capable.

I pray each generation that was and is and is to come understands how valuable their contributions are in the workforce as well as how capable they are in using their gifts and talents for others. May no one ever take away your dignity. (A hand-up is quite different than a hand-out. One encourages while the other enables and we all know the difference. We just do.)

Kathleen Kjolhaug, OblSB

This article was first published in Theology in the Trenches, a column written by oblate Kathleen Kjolhaug. Posted with permission. Read more articles on her blog, Theology in the Trenches.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash