“Do a little more than you’re paid to. Give a little more than you have to. Try a little harder than you want to. Aim a little higher than you think possible, and give a lot of thanks to God for health, family and friends.” (Art Linkletter)
I was taught as a child to have a good work ethic. My mother didn’t call it that, but the concept was certainly there. She encouraged me to always do a little more than was needed so that I could make my work, and myself stand out. This was a prevailing attitude with many in my life at the time, and it became engrained in me.
The first work that I ever did for which I got pay was cutting grass. To think of this today, considering my terrible allergy to fresh cut grass is quite amazing, but for many summers in my teens I spent a significant portion of my weekdays in the summer cutting grass. I had 3 or 4 customers, all of whom were neighborhood widows. The yards weren’t particularly large, but none of them had a power lawn mower. All were the walk-behind, push mowers of the day. After a rainy week, it was quite a chore to push the mower through.
Trimming and edging were also done with hand tools. The edger had a long handle and could be done from a standing position, but the trimmers were basically just large scissors. I would have to be on my hands and knees to get around the perimeter of the yard.
Mrs. Yearger had the house at the end of my street. She was a very kind, very interesting lady in her 70s. I actually would stop and visit with her on occasion, just to sit and talk to her while she did her knitting or sewing. In the summer I would cut her grass.
I remember one occasion when I was working on her lawn. It was probably late June or early July. It was sunny, hot and humid while I was working on her lawn. It had rained the week before, so the grass was long and difficult. I was working my way through, and was nearly done, when her grandson approached me. He was in his 20s, and lived a considerable distance away, but would come to visit. I was probably 14 at the time. As I said, I was nearly finished, and thought I had done a good job.
He stopped and said hello and we chatted for a minute. He had taken a look around and seen my work. He told me his grandfather had always had a perfect lawn, and kept all of his bushes and gardens in great shape. It was a source of pride for his grandfather, and of great memories for him. He looked around and told me that I had done an OK job at the lawn, but that his grandfather’s yard deserved better. He told me that I could do better for what his grandmother was paying me. (Just for perspective, it was $2.00 per week, but that was a lot more money in 1976 than it is today). He told me that he wanted that lawn, and my work, to be an ongoing source of pride for his grandmother.
At first I was hurt and angry that my work was being criticized. Mrs. Yearger had always praised my work. But, it did make me go back and trim just a little more, and work just a little harder. He was gone by the time I finished, and I don’t recall ever seeing him again. But that conversation definitely had an effect on me. It made me work harder on her lawn, and the others that I did. I made sure that I would pull obvious weeds in the grass as I went along, and in the garden as well. I swept up better so that it was hard to find a blade of grass left on the driveway or sidewalk.
That attitude of giving and doing a little more stays with me today. I have encouraged my children to always find ways to do a little more in their chores, and in their jobs. At work I try to get my team to do a little more than is required as well. There it usually takes the form of encouraging them to anticipate what the next set of questions may be, and be ready to answer them.
It doesn’t take much for me to do just a little bit more. When I give that extra effort I always feel a greater sense of pride and enjoyment in my work. Art Linkletter’s quote reminds me that I must continue to make this a part of my attitude.