My first paycheck came from a small town in New Hampshire. I was working for a family run lumber mill. I was proud of that job. I was only 14 years old.
I was always very thrifty with my money. I was also a very giving person. I lived in a home with several foster children. During my childhood, I had over 150 different siblings. All of them had various backgrounds. A lot of their backgrounds were not good.
I was very proud of myself when I was rewarded with my week’s hard work at the lumber mill. I worked hard grading and loading lumber, by hand, onto trucks or onto various individual pallets for orders that were given to the mill. It was hard work but it was also very busy work and I did best when I was active and busy. It kept me out of trouble.
Right after I received my first paycheck, I had visions about what I would do with this money. I was a saver and I felt it would be best to start a savings account. I could watch my earnings adding up over time. It would be great to have my own money to buy my own things. It was something I had never had before.
As I was dreaming about ways I could also spend my money, I was sitting in my room, on my bed, when my foster sister entered the room. We had bunk beds. She had the top and I had the bottom. I watched her as she climbed the little wooden ladder to the top. Then, I heard her as she began to cry quietly.
Having had many experiences with children who were lonely, scared, frightened or grieving, I knew it was best to sometimes remain quiet and say nothing. So, I continued to ponder my earnings and I waited for her to speak. She laid there for a while and then she called my name.
I replied back to her quietly, knowing that she needed that reassurance from me. She told me about an upcoming visitation with her mother and how she knew it was her birthday but she did not have anything to give her. I offered to help her. I sat down with her at the kitchen table and together, we made a card. I was always good with words and I helped her construct a birthday card from the heart.
This particular foster child was a fixture in my life. She had come and gone from our home over the years many times. Her mother was an alcoholic and abusive when she was at her worst. She had been removed from her mother’s home for years. Always, the social workers would put her back into our home, where she was familiar. My parents never refused to take her.
After we had constructed the card, I went to my mother and told her how I felt about my foster sister and what she was feeling. I told her that I would like her to take us to the mall so we could spend the day together. I did not tell her ahead of time that I planned on letting her pick out something for her mother. I would use my money.
So it was that we found ourselves at the mall. We spent the afternoon walking around, window shopping and eating pizza and having soda in the food court. It was a treat for us. Later, I would even treat us to ice cream. Then, after we had spent some time window shopping and having our fill of lunch, I told her what I was planning. I would let her pick something out for her mother for her upcoming visit. She was elated.
We purchased a modest and small gift. She did go on that visit and presented her mother with this present. I went on to earn other paychecks but I was given the best of gift of all. I was given the gift of giving to someone who had less than I. I will always remember how I spent my first paycheck and the value of that paycheck to a little girl less fortunate than I. It felt like a million bucks!