The summer season is an exciting time for kids of all ages. They’re free from school and have more time to spend doing the activities they love, and some will even get their first real taste of responsibility when they start their first summer job. Summer jobs are a great opportunity for kids to learn valuable life lessons that will shape them into responsible adults. I know that was certainly the case when I started my first summer job way back when I was just entering my teenage years.squad

My best friend, Scott, and I have been friends for nearly 40 years now. We initially became friends in the first grade, and our friendship never faltered over the years. As kids, Scott’s dad, Mr. Valentine, drove him and his brother, Neil, around their community to cut grass for those in need. Mr. Valentine wanted to instill a strong work ethic in his children while also providing them with a way to make money. He had many connections through the church, so they normally mowed lawns for seniors and even some churches.

I became involved in the business when I turned 13. Mr. Valentine had an old white pickup truck that he loaded with a riding mower, two push mowers, a weed whacker, and some rakes. It was all older equipment, but it got the job done. Mr. Valentine always had oldies playing while driving, so it’s safe to say that all of us became experts in oldies rock. Of course, they needed a name for the business, so Mr. Valentine took one from an old TV show called “The Mod Squad” and we became the Sod Squad. Whenever we showed up at someone’s home, they were delighted to see us. We cut grass for people who couldn’t get out much so they always appreciated the interactions.

I’m incredibly thankful to Mr. Valentine and Scott for inviting me into that venture. I learned a lot, and it made me even closer to their family. I did get paid for my work, and even though it was a tiny amount, it felt great making money at that age. Mr. Valentine taught me the ins and outs of how lawn equipment worked. He also taught me a valuable lesson in being responsible. If he said he was picking me up at 7 in the morning, I had to be ready then. A lot of the time, the work we did wasn’t necessarily fun. It would be 95 degrees out when we were cutting grass, and I was allergic to grass, which made the situation even worse. But I was able to push on, which helped me develop a strong work ethic.

I’ve been able to apply many of the lessons I learned as a member of the Sod Squad directly to my current work. For example, I need to be readily available to my clients whenever they need me, just like I needed to be ready to go whenever the Sod Squad pulled up. There were aspects of the job that I simply didn’t want to do, but I realized the people I was assisting truly needed my help, and my rough days didn’t compare to theirs. It’s the same situation with my current job. When I’m having a difficult day, I think about the people I’m helping who can’t work or pay their bills and realize that I’m working to make life easier for them.

Working with the Sod Squad taught me plenty of life lessons, and I’m positive that it’s a big reason why Scott and I have remained friends for so long. I’m still very close with that family and am grateful for the opportunity 33 years later. If you have younger relatives who are starting their first job this summer, I wish them the best of luck. It’ll surely be an enlightening and informative experience for them.

Patrick Hartwig
Connect with me
Managing Attorney, Keefe Disability Law