This is a true story you can use to stress the importance of education to your children. When I was 19 I worked for a seafood restaurant as a prep cook, but specifically, I sliced and hand peeled thousands of individual shrimp 12-14 hours a day, six days a week. We were a bunch of 18-30 year-old classic American burnouts – except – after school each day – one 15 year-old Korean kid peeled shrimp with us. We affectionately nicknamed him “Flounder.” He was a good kid and we tried not to corrupt him.
Everyone knew Flounder’s parents; they owned the flower shop and the liquor store at a nearby mall and his dad had been selling us booze since we were 15. So, one day, about eight of us were standing around in the cooler doing whip-its, when I said, “Flounder, what are you doin’ workin’ a shit job? I mean, your parents own two businesses. They must be doin’ pretty good. You don’t need the money, do you?”
Flounder replied, “No, we don’t need the money. I don’t want this job. I hate it here. My dad makes me do it…. He said he wanted me to know what my life would be like if I didn’t get an education.” It was silent. Flounder didn’t realize what he had said to us. We didn’t hold it against him. We all knew his dad was right, and it hurt.
We’d all been schooled, but we weren’t educated. We didn’t even know what it meant. Some say Mark Twain said, “Never let your schooling get in the way of your education.” Flounder’s dad knew that we learn in every moment of our lives, so he gave his son the best education he could by forcing him to peel shrimp. At the time, I didn’t view peeling shrimp as an education, I viewed it as a way to make money. But it was a part of my education, and a valuable one I’m grateful to have had.