I was probably around ten or twelve years old. It was a Saturday morning and I was enjoying my favorite cartoon, Johnny Quest. It is curious how some memories remain stark in our minds while so many fall from our ability to recollect. This is one of those memories that is still vivid as if it occurred yesterday. My father entered the room, and after recognizing that I was enmeshed in Johnny and, his buddy, Hadji’s latest adventure, told me that after the show was over he had a job for me to do.

The show ended and I then peeled myself from the television and found my dad in the kitchen. He motioned out the window and said, “Curt, all over the backyard there are sticker balls and I want you to get a trash can lid, pick up the sticker balls, put them in the upside down trash can lid, and throw them into the trash.” Now, if you don’t understand Alabama arborist slang, a “sticker ball” is the spiked seed pod of the Sweetgum tree. When they are green, they are hard and heavy and make a formidable projectile when thrown by aggressive little boys. Our back yard was the site of an annual plague of sticker balls.

I went out the back door, removed the trash can lid, and began to stoop down and pick up the sticker balls one at the time. This was going to be a long and laborious effort on my part and all the while more cartoons were being missed. It seemed reasonable that I should make my labor more efficient by raking the balls into a pile, and then pushing them directly into the overturned trash can. So, after getting all the sticker balls into the trash can, and feeling quite brilliant, I returned to my cartoons.

A few minutes into the Pink Panther, my father again called me to the kitchen. He motioned for me to look out into the back yard and I was astonished to see the sticker balls again scattered all over the yard. In dismay I looked backat my father who said, “I told you how to do the job. You did not do it as told. You will one day have a job and you must learn to do as you are told. Now, go out there, get the trash can lid, flip it over and pick up those sticker balls and carry them to the trash can.” He had scattered the sticker balls that I had raked up all over the yard.

I thought he had lost his mind; yet that day, I learned a tremendous lesson. Even today, I have an old, dried out sticker ball that I have carried around for many years. It sits on my desk to this day. It reminds me to do the job right and to do it under authority. Many times I have encouraged the boys of Youth-Reach that if they learn nothing from us but they leave with a strong work ethic, they will never go hungry and they will always be able to support themselves and their families.

In fact, if they gain a strong work ethic, they will unfortunately stand head and shoulders above their peers. The typical American teenager is lethargic when confronted with work, unmotivated to achieve anything that does not yield immediate gratification, and views most physical labor as below their station in life. Instead, they have been served, coddled, and taught a host of negative lessons. To gain a work ethic, most kids have to first unlearn all of the poor lessons that have drained them of ambition and determination.

Here at Youth-Reach, you are not supporting a bunch of boys who are sitting around playing video games and watching endless hours of television. These boys start the day with a one mile run before breakfast. They are led in vigorous exercise by one of our team members who played four years of Division 1 college football. They work with mowers, rakes, axes, shovels, and weed eaters. They eat a lot because we intend to work it off of them. They sleep well at night because they are exhausted. We do not charge families for the boys to be here so it is expected that each boy will earn his bed here every day.

The end result is a young man who is a self-starter, who can listen to instructions, work hard, not quit until the job is completed, and who has a high standard for his own performance. We certainly hope that they gain a lot more than just this while here at Youth-Reach, but in today’s culture, a strong work ethic will reward a man for life. This is just one of the points that you support when you pray and give to the work of Youth-Reach Houston.

Thank you for helping us to keep the doors open and the program available for the next kid who is willing to work for what is being provided for him.