Working for a Wage

October 1st, 2008
by Alfonso Ebanks

[private] v6-10-Our IslandsMany decades ago, on a Friday afternoon, I was summoned from the garden where I was working. I was complemented on the excellence of my work and handed five silver lempira pieces. On that day I had drawn my first wage. I had been remunerated for a five-day week after school laboring in the garden of a wealthy lady. With all that money in my pocket I felt a tiny bit of the power that comes with wealth.

I was as proud as I could be because I had earned the money by the sweat of my brow. Little did I realize that on that day I was as rich as I ever would be. When I arrived at home I went to my personal area and counted those silver coins over and over again. The clinking sound they made was like music to my ears. I quickly emptied a velvet marble bag that I owned, gently placed the coins inside and tied the bag around my neck.

That night as I awaited the sandman, I could not help thinking about my money. The more I thought about it the more I wondered what would be the best way to use the money. Here in my possession was enough money to pay somebody’s rent for a month, or feed a small family for a couple of weeks. It could also pay five months of private tutoring in English, buy fifty double scoop ice cream cones, or one hundred packs of Sweet 16 chewing gum. I was rich and I knew it.

There were other people with money, but unlike those other people I had no bills to pay, or no other financial obligations. I had absolutely nothing to do with all my money.

Thinking back to that wonderful day I now sincerely believe that it was the only time in my life that I ever found myself in such an enviable position. Since that day I have never been without a paying job. Me and mine have never gone hungry, but I have never, ever achieved that degree of economic freedom since. Working for a wage has only made me rich that one time.

Earning one’s bread by the sweat of one’s brow is not all it’s cracked up to be. I am in the acquaintance of at least a dozen persons that have never worked at a paying job in their lives and can buy anything they want. Mind you, not buy anything they need, but buy anything they want.

There is quite a difference between these two kinds of purchases. Buying “what you want” means you never have to ask the price. Buying “what you need” means you must always haggle for a bargain with the seller. Whenever I see people who seem to prosper with no visible means of support it brings to mind an old Yoruba proverb: “If the wicked prospers and the righteous suffers, one feels reluctant to do good.”

Most of us will spend the bigger part of our useful lives working for a wage; and we all know that it is the wage earner who makes individual employers and corporations rich while we, the wage earners, will never ever have more money than we need. [/private]

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