Posted by: ppernick | March 28, 2007

Life's Lessons

This past Sunday Ari, Simeon and I joined some friends in celebrating the Swedish pseudo-holiday of Waffle Day.  At some point, conversation turned to a writing assignment given to the 7th grade students of one of our friends.  Another friend at the table actually came up with the topic – Design a new elective for your school.

Apparently the topic selecter, now having the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, would have liked a course on ‘basic life skills’.  It wasn’t until later that night that I remembered a 5th grade class event that is exactly what he described.

In 5th grade, my class spent a few weeks preparing for a day at Exchange City.  I didn’t realize at the time just how lucky I was to have access to this.  Looking at their site, even today there’s still only 21 of these operating throughout the US.

Basically, Exchange City is a miniature town run by kids.  Everybody has a job that earns them a paycheck.  After taxes, they are left with their spending money with which to go around to the stores and cafe to buy stuff.  We had a city mayor (elected beforehand if I recall correctly).  People were written up for breaking city laws.  Too many citations (or a citation for a more serious offense) and you stood in front of a judge. For those running a business, they had to take out loans for startup.  Accountants had to understand payroll and balancing the books.  We had a radio station, newspaper, printers, gift shop and more. 

It really was a lesson in basic life skills.

I was the accountant at one of the stores, which meant I was in charge of payroll.  So, at noon, when I’m ready to go out to lunch (just like everybody else) I have people lined up waiting for their paycheck.

Lesson Learned?  If you are willing to accept one last task, as many people as possible will take advantage of it.  Once that happens you can practically forget about leaving on time – or leaving at all.

Definitely a good life lesson to learn early.

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