Jackie Gingrich Cushman

In my hands was a small, multicolored clay turtle that I had made and painted at elementary school. I carefully walked up the steps to the front of our home, excited to show my mother what I had made and give it to her. As I opened the screen door, I dropped my handcrafted treasure, and it broke into pieces. I sat down and cried.

My mother found me a few minutes later, gathered me in her arms and gave me a hug. After I stopped crying, we picked up the pieces, took them inside and glued them together. This turtle sits in my mother's kitchen today.

Why did I cry? Happy and proud that I had crafted something for my mother with my hands, I was devastated when it fell and broke into pieces. My mother inherently understood that what was important was that I had created something for her, and she helped me fix it. The turtle was an outward sign that I was competent, that I could make something of value, that I had improved her life with something that I had made.

My work had value.

As a child, my "work" consisted of helping with vacuuming, laundry, making beds and cleaning the house. My mother's favorite remedy for my complaints of boredom was to give me a spray bottle of Formula 409 and a rag, so I could clean the baseboards and the doors in our home. I learned that reading was a lot more fun and rarely complained about being bored.

When I became old enough for a "real," paying job, I worked in our church cleaning the bathrooms. It certainly was not exciting work, but I was pleased when I finished my job. The bathrooms were left gleaming. Overhearing comments on Sunday morning about the "clean and sparkling" bathrooms made me proud.

My work had value.

Since then, I have worked as a skating waitress, switchboard operator, ice cream scooper, babysitter, inventory taker, bank teller, financial analyst, telemarketer, marketing manager, financial planner, financial director, speaker, author and columnist. My best work comes from using my God-given talents to help others.

The value of work is measured in more than monetary terms. It includes the accomplishment of being creative, expresses our uniqueness and makes a difference, however small, in our world.

The easiest way for us to track the "value" of work is through compensation and payment. We work; we get paid. We hope that what we get paid is what we think our activities, our efforts and our creations are worth.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.