I was sixteen years old and had just settled into my first real job; it wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be. The kids at the Salvation Army Summer Camp were far different than the kids I usually babysat.
In the interview, they made it seem easy to teach ten kindergartners. But nothing in my 16 years of life had quite prepared me for that summer - from the chair thrown at my face to the spit that flew into my eyes to the unpleasant names I was called.
My coworkers were much older than me, many of them were teachers during the school year and had far more experience than I did -- what was put before me as a sixteen-year-old child was a pretty difficult job. To teach, manage and engage with ten underprivileged kids who never saw an easy day of their life -- was no simple task. And I gave it all that I had; I showed kids love in the ways I knew how.
One morning, I went in with all the intentions in the world to add just a little bit more discipline to my classroomthat day and to be a little harsher when things got out of hand. But the day started a bit differently, the tone in my classroom was unusual, and my intuitive spirit knew something wasn’t quite right. One of my quieter students seemed a little shaken up, I gently pulled her aside and asked her what was going on today. It eventually came apparent to me that she had been abused at home earlier that week. And she was pretty scared. She was pretty alone. She was pretty vulnerable. I didn’t want to leave her that day or any of the days following. We stuck together, chatted often and I, alongside my co-workers, fought hard to get her out of that home.
It was after that incident, that relationship, that moment, that I realized I may never fully grasp the perfect balance between strict and fun, and I may not make a lot of money this summer, but I knew that I brought more to this job than a desire to make money or to get a good recommendation from my boss. I finally realized my worth as a summer camp teacher — it was to love and care for my kindergartners.
Knowing my worth was not based upon a certain criteria or even on how much money I was making, I learned my worth in the service of the kids I was caring for.
It gave me the confidence to stand up for what I believed I needed to succeed. It gave me the backbone to ask the right kinds of questions and ask for the help I needed.
Knowing my worth was much more about understanding my own strengths, about knowing what I brought to the table, knowing that even though I was sixteen, I still deserved the same respect as any other teacher in the room.
Knowing your worth goes beyond money and into the daily rhythms and depth of your life. As a nurse or as a doctor or as any working person, know what you bring to the table and identify the strengths that make you unique and valuable. Without doing that, money will always seem dissatisfying, empty and limiting. You are worth more than a paycheck and bring much more to the table. You bring value, worth and a special set of skills to the job you are in and no one can do it quite like you can.