Service of Help from Obvious Places

December 16th, 2010

Categories: Appreciation, Busy Hands, Help, Opportunity, Physical Labor, Work

In a Wall Street Journal article, “In Jane Austen 2.0, the Heroines and Heroes Friend Each Other,” Arden Dale and Mary Pilon write about 19 year old Ben Kemper, a Jane Austen fan/member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, who planned to dress up in period clothes for the annual Austen birthday tea in Boise, Idaho.

As interesting to me as the Austen craze among mostly young women that the article describes is Kemper’s proposed solution to fulfill his dress up plans: “The outfit will be ‘the whole shebang’ says Mr. Kemper, who hopes to scare up some yard work so he can pay for the new threads,” wrote Dale and Pilon.

With the exception of babysitting which seems to be a thriving business, [older teens with driver’s licenses can get $12/hour while tweens with parents nearby $3-ish per hour according to] it’s been eons since I’ve seen or heard of youngsters doing yard work or odd jobs or asking for same.

At least I don’t see young Americans doing yard work in our upstate town. Wonder if they are applying themselves to career-enhancing internships? Have all figured out how to pay the pocketbook-boggling college tuition fees ranging from $20,000 to almost $60,000/year by lining up scholarships or did they all land with rich parents and do they have transportation to get them to and from higher-paying KP or order-taking jobs at MacDonald’s or Burger King?

I’m not convinced that youngsters are paid more at these places then at home. My mom hired a sister and brother team to paint her apartment. These college students were careful with her and her furniture, did a spectacular and clean job and she was happy to pay them a higher-than-average wage for their attention-to-detail and to her needs. They came when they said they would and finished on time. What normally is a disruptive and horrible experience turned out to be kind of fun as she also enjoyed the kids’ company!

Do you think Kemper turned to such work because he’s of another period, the 19th century, or because he lives in a part of the country where normal things still happen? How long has it been since you’ve hired or heard of a youngster doing crucial odd jobs for you or for anyone at home?

7 Responses to “Service of Help from Obvious Places”

  1. On Facebook Said:

    Patty Raddock I’ve NEVER heard of this in my home or in my neighborhood! However, there is a little boy down the street who goes door to door selling lemonade, iced tea and his artwork!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The next Stanley Marcus or Alfred Bloomingdale as a neighbor! How exciting. My Dad would have asked about the drinks, “Were his hands clean when he made them?”

  3. Anonymous Said:

    Young people in my area go door-to-door during snow days offering to shovel. We also have a reliable teenager in the neighborhood who does all sorts of chores–from hanging holiday and party decorations to gardening to watching kids for an hour on a school night while the parents run to school meetings.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What a wonderful and enterprising teenager! If we knew where you live, we’d all want to move next door. With that attitude, the young man or woman will go far.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Teens, despite the bad reputations some like to give them, make excellent workers for the most part. As an administrator, I hired many as summer help, and only one failed to show enthusiasm and willingness to learn, followed by effective performance.

    Surprisingly, no one here has heard of a recent Chappaqua incident, involving a local town councilman who called the cops on two local teens (boys) who were selling homemade cupcakes, siting an ordinance requiring a license to sell. According to the Journal News, and smaller area papers, said council member was bombarded by hate mail nationally, and from around the world. The attempt to squash teen incentive did not sit well in his town (starting with the angry parents) and surrounding municipalities as well. The councilman eventually admitted that he could have handled things more delicately. Wonder if he’ll seek reelection.

    High schools in the Northern Westchester area have work study programs. School endorsement cannot hurt. Other teens like to volunteer, and such opportunities abound for those seeking a way to use extra time. In this day and age it is mandatory for a community to offer extra curricular activity of some sort to its youth. In a tough economy such as this, few if any, can get by with an empty resume. Further, it is sad to think of a community so dead as to not consider the welfare and growth of its next generation.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    The college students I mentor, while in their late teens/early 20s for the most part, work hard and smart and would be an asset to any company they work for having nothing to do with me. They were like this before we met. As most live in the city, there isn’t that much yard work to do and supers in apartment buildings do a lot of the handiwork.

    Many of the students I meet who are applying for a New York Women in Communications scholarship are high school seniors. You would have enjoyed working with them and would have been pleased with the outcome.

    I think I heard about the cupcake sales incident or something very much like it. Really. With so much else going so very wrong and being overlooked, what got into that councilman!

  7. Hester Craddock Said:

    Apparently, your readers do know of teenagers that actually seek work, and, which is even more surprising, do it acceptably. Sadly, as a city dweller, my experience has been that doped up teenagers who probably can’t even read are far more likely to terrorize old people on a subway than to do any work.

    However, as pleasant a surprise as the discovery there are teenagers who want to work may be, there is a much greater and an even more pleasant one. Some people in Boise, Idaho not only have heard of Jane Austin, which is amazing enough, but they like reading her books!

    I had thought all they knew how to do was punch cows, carry six shooters, yell at football games, and go to tea parties. There is hope for the world yet!

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