Today’s guest contributor is my son, Jesse, pictured here with Rebekah, Sam, Issac and Josiah.
The obvious meaning of the verse above is if you sit around and do nothing you’ll end up poor. If you work hard, you won’t be poor. Of course, it is a wisdom saying that alludes to a general principle that can’t be strictly interpreted to conclude the inverse (anyone poor became poor by not working hard). But the general principal is true: work produces benefit. I think this is true for sibling relationships as well. Working together as siblings produces benefits.
Enough about scriptural principals, let’s talk about me:
When we were young our oldest brother, Josh, hired Joey and me to work for a lawn care and snow removal company he managed. As young teens (or was Joey like ten or eleven?) we were operating commercial mowers and sometimes working through the night when snowstorms rolled into northern Virginia. If you know Joey ask him about the time one of the mowers got away from him; or let Josh tell you the story of the night he shoveled show until he was nearly delirious with hypothermia. Fun times.
Working for Josh under the supervision of some guys from Mexico who moved to Virginia each summer to work taught Joey and me (and later, Jake) how to work hard. The last thing we wanted the Mexican guys to call us was “too much lazy.” Joey and I decided to start J&J Lawn Services. Being the marketing guru that I am, I changed the name to J&J Lawns. That had a much better ring.
When we moved to Florida when Joey and I were in our mid teens we started LaMerritt Lawns. Josh was our investor and Dad gave up his garage for us. We even filed a corporation and had an accountant. We were big shot executives, greedy capitalists, and sweaty grass-covered landscape technicians all rolled into one.
Joey and I operated LaMerritt Lawns long enough to get me through college. We bought a truck and trailer, and 36” and 61” hydraulic powered SCAG mowers. We mowed soccer fields and other small commercial properties to pay for gas, food and whatever else the Bright Futures academic scholarship didn’t cover. We continued to use our Toyota truck even after I did a 360 on a rain drenched ramp near our house shortly before a neighbor’s tree bent the bed during Hurricane Charley in 2004. (That tree made a beeline for our truck that day.)
I didn’t realize it then, but the experience of working with siblings and family was only just the beginning.
After college I worked with my dad at our church. When the church encountered some financial challenges I volunteered to get employment elsewhere. Once again Josh came through and offered me a job working for an IT company he started six years ago. The brother who taught me how to mow lawns (perfectly!) taught me that “IT is as much about fixing people as fixing computers.” Josh recently turned down a job he was offered by his biggest client and recommended me for the position. The board decided to settle for me. But since Josh’s offices are on the same property as my new employer I still get to partner with my brothers. (Did I mention Joey is now the Pres of Josh’s company; Jake worked there until he left last summer for law school; and Mom does account management from home?)
I’ve worked for and with family my entire life. Even when I tried to escape, the one place I interviewed with was Florida Hospital, where—you guessed it—my father-in-law is an executive. And ‘He who sits in the heavens laughs’ (Pr. 2:4).
All joking aside, I can’t overstate the value of working together as families and as siblings specifically. Character is formed and camaraderie built by getting a job done and then getting paid for it. Of course, we didn’t get paid for making our beds and helping Dad with yard work when we were kids. Mom always said, “Being family has privileges and responsibilities” so serving around the house wasn’t something we were paid to do. It was a lot of fun when others started paying us, though.
Learning to depend on and cover for each other helped build trust and encourage unselfishness. Saying “he did it!” might work when your mom asks what went wrong. However, blame shifting doesn’t work when it’s a client asking why his backyard wasn’t mowed. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is; you both don’t get paid.
Of course, it hasn’t always been fun and games. Any time you work with someone day after day you get upset with each other. And not many of us would invite our boss over for Thanksgiving. But hey, it comes with the territory of a family business. There’s something about it that helps reflects a biblical view of vocation by merging the worlds of work and family.
Working together as siblings helps increase respect for each other and gives plenty of opportunities to forgive. Remember the previous posts on forgiveness? Well, that doesn’t end when you’re adults. Josh and I have both had to forgive each other for sins we committed against each other while at work.
The part of the overbearing boss is played by Josh. The part of the griping subversive employee played by Jesse. Action!
Families were not meant to live disconnected lives and go separate directions during the day, returning to the house at night. Neither were sibling relationships meant to end after kids move out of the house.
We were meant to work together, labor together and partner with each other in this thing called life. That’s our calling and our vocation, whether we have a family business or not. Sometimes adult siblings can’t work side by side because they live states apart. But working together involves far more than fixing computers or mowing lawns together; it involves linking hearts to be there for each other in whatever ways brothers and sisters desire and should. As a dad of three young boys, I believe this starts with teaching my sons to labor together in the stuff of daily life.
As I look back over my experience of working for and with my siblings, both as a child and now as an adult, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m not sure I would have the work ethic I have had it not been for the example of my siblings. Our experiences working together, making many fun memories and challenging each other to excel helped me to be who I am today. I know my relationships with my siblings would not be as strong as they are had childhood been all play and no work.
The other day I walked out into the yard and saw Issac pulling weeds with Rebekah. While I don’t think he got all the roots up, I couldn’t help but think about the years he and Sam may spend plotting their next big business venture together, and then working with each other to achieve their dreams of becoming rich enough to buy their own ice cream.