EMPATHY WORK LESSONS IN SUMMER JOBS
As the dog days of summer continue, there’s nothing I like more than a scoop of ice cream (or two) to cool off. Sitting back and indulging my sweet tooth, I can’t help but think back to one of my first jobs, all those summers ago, working in a little ice cream factory in Pennsylvania. Beyond being a pretty sweet gig, that job and others helped shape who I am today. When I was just 15 years old, I went to work for the local ice cream factory. There were about 20 of us, mixing the cream and packing it into 20-quart metal drums (this was before cardboard became the industry standard). Sometimes it was my job to wash out these containers after the ice cream trucks brought them back. This really got in the way of my athletics. As I’ve mentioned in past articles, baseball has always been an important part of my life. I would eventually come to terms with the fact that I just wasn’t cut out to be a pitcher, but at age 15, in the Babe Ruth league, I was still trying my darndest. But on the days I had to wash those ice cream drums, my hands would get so pruny I couldn’t grip the ball! The first night this happened, I couldn’t throw over the plate to save my life. I explained these woes to my boss, asking if I could please be taken off dish duties on days I had a game. Nope. Tough
luck, Elliott; your team at work needs you cleaning those tubs more than your baseball team needs you pitching. Lesson learned. When I went off to college, I found work at a different ice cream place, Greenwood Dairy. It was a very popular spot, and they made their own ice cream from their brand of milk. The owner was a great guy who made a point to hire a college kid every summer to help support their education. To this day, the way that owner was able to use his small business to foster higher education in the community is an inspiration to me. I was very lucky to get that spot my freshmen year, though I gained weight thanks to the ice cream.
happy to leave the pallet work to the college kids during their breaks. I didn’t mind — I got to swap out my ice cream weight for muscle. Over my school career, I had just about every job under the sun. I learned to drive a stick shift working for a glass repair company and I cultivated my love of music working at a stereo shop, and throughout all these jobs I was working shoulder to shoulder with folks from just about every walk of life imaginable. We often praise these kinds of jobs for the work ethic and personal responsibility they teach. But what often gets overlooked are the lessons in empathy and understanding we gain from our coworkers along the way. As a trial lawyer, my job largely revolves around connecting with people with different backgrounds and being trusted to tell their story before a courtroom. I have no doubt these lessons in empathy throughout the summers of my life have made me a better lawyer and a better man.
I HAVE NO DOUBT THESE LESSONS IN EMPATHY THROUGHOUT THE SUMMERS OF MY LIFE HAVE MADE ME A BETTER LAWYER AND A BETTER MAN.
The next year took care of that, when I got to work at the Champale Brewery in Trenton, New Jersey. I’ve never been much of a beer drinker myself, but it was a fun union job with plenty of heavy lifting. The older guys were more than
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