Why I choose to be a Mormon

I haven’t been haven’t been coerced or brainwashed, nor am I stupid and delusional to believe what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) teaches, despite what commenters on social media and articles about Mormons like to claim.

Instead, I’ve chosen to believe, and here are my six reasons why:

  1. Mormonism makes sense to me.

Straight off, I like what the LDS Church teaches.

Mormonism rings true in my mind and heart, more than any other philosophy, religion, or belief system I’ve researched. And yes—I’ve researched a lot of them, starting when I was a teenager. Even then I agreed with Socrates when he said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” 

While I was born into a family that was Mormon, I took it upon myself to make sure I wasn’t duped into believing all of this stuff. At the age of 16 I started a serious, focused study of the Bible. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing, but I read every single word—even the entire Old Testament, and boy was I happy to get to the New Testament—to make sure I knew what was in there.

And I decided that I wanted to believe in it. Belief is a choice, after all. While I think that some of the Bible is figurative, I believe that most of it is literal as far as it’s translated correctly, and I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior, making me firmly a Christian.

But still I wanted to know what else was out there.

So beginning in high school when I had to read Siddhartha, I’ve researched over the years the main tenants and theories of the major belief systems, from Atheism to Zen Buddhism, and just about everything in between.  In each sect and philosophy I found elements that rang my inner “truth bell.”
(Except for Karl Marx and Christopher Hitchins; they barely clanked my brain.)

But my inner truth bells rang constantly when I read The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, and when I studied the ideology of Mormonism. All the truths I found in the other religions and philosophies were represented in the LDS Church along with so, so much more. It’s that depth that won me over, because . . .

  1. Mormonism is the kind of life I want to live.

I’m baffled when others who don’t even know me, or any other Mormons for that fact, take it upon themselves to mock and deride our decision to follow this way of life: to be morally clean, provide charity to our friends and neighbors, pay tithing, actively worship Jesus Christ, observe the Sabbath Day, and make covenants in temples in order to perhaps in some distant epoch of time eventually grow, develop, and mature to become even like God himself.

I would never, ever make fun of the way another person lives their life—it’s their life; why would I be so arrogant as to criticize their decisions?—so I’m not sure why it’s always open season on Mormons.
(By the way, “The Book of Mormon” musical is not written or endorsed by Mormons. Trust me.)

But I’m a Mormon because I want to live a deliberate and purposeful life, and the teachings of the LDS Church provide me with the most logical and inspired guidelines to do so.  

The way I see life is that I have such a short time to be here, and I want to do as much and as best as I can.

I look it at this way: I’ve always wanted to visit London, England. In my mind I’ve fantasized and romanticized about what London would be like and secretly wished I were British. (I’m German, may the Brits forgive me.)

Now, if someone came to me and said, “You will have 24 hours to spend in London next week,” I assure you I wouldn’t just step off the plane in Heathrow, buy a six-pack, and sit on the banks of the Thames watching the boats go up and down for the day.

No, I’d start planning now for the best 24 hours ever. What would be the best and most important places to visit? Once I got there I’d ask the locals, where should I eat? What tourist traps should I avoid? Is Shakespeare playing in the park? Where’s the park? I wouldn’t want to waste any of my time idly.
(As you can imagine, my idea of a vacation isn’t the same as everyone else’s. We once vacationed at the beach, and by lunchtime on the second day I was bored out of my mind. “Isn’t there a museum or national park anywhere?!”)

I see my entire life in the same way. I get the feeling that my soul is very, very old, and that I waited for thousands of years to come to this earth. My existence after this life will also extend for thousands of more years, and beyond.

The line, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience,” by the Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, also rings true to me, as does C. S. Lewis’s statement that “You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

Because this is my ONE shot at life (I couldn’t get behind the idea of reincarnation, unfortunately), and I’m sure I’ve been waiting for this chance for several millennia. I don’t want to waste it.

I’ve also decided (a choice, again) that Jesus Christ was the best example of how to live fully, and no other religion or ideology I’ve explored follows His example closer than the LDS Church.

Follow the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the way I want to spend my life.

  1. The LDS Church doesn’t require blind obedience.

This is another trite, overused cliché leveled against those who are Mormons: we’re non-thinking and gullible.

One man, trying to point out how stupid I was for following Mormonism, claimed that if the prophet said to jump, I’d ask how high.

I shrugged and said, “I thought that was only true in the armed forces.”

Silly me, I’d forgotten he was career military. What ensued next was a brief but lively conversation about the difference between commanders expecting absolute obedience to commands, versus people obeying prophets of God.

When I pointed out that the LDS Church never requires blind obedience as the armed forced did, the gentleman changed the subject because he really didn’t know that much about Mormons, which is my experience with most detractors.
They know hearsay, and little else. 

The truth is that the LDS Church emphasizes, again and again, the importance of individuals discovering truths for themselves; “gaining a testimony” is how it’s frequently phrased.

Here are some of the most often quoted scriptures in the church:

“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right . . .”

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true . . .”

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God . . .”

It’s a church that encourages its members, and those investigating it, to ask, ask, ask; to find out, find out, find out for themselves.

No blind faith. Put God to the test. Try it and see.

Back to my military friend; one thing he did admit was that the reason the soldiers obeyed their commanders was because they trusted them implicitly.

I likewise trust the leaders of my church. Their admonitions and suggestions have been correct again and again, and I’ve decided (choice, again) that they are prophets who receive revelation from God.

Here’s one example of thousands I could give. A president and prophet named Gordon B. Hickley said these words in a general conference of the church: Hinckley 2

“I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order.

“So many of our people are living on the very edge of their incomes. In fact, some are living on borrowings.

“We have witnessed in recent weeks wide and fearsome swings in the markets of the world. The economy is a fragile thing. A stumble in the economy in Jakarta or Moscow can immediately affect the entire world. It can eventually reach down to each of us as individuals. There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed.”

He said this in 1998.
He was right.
It’s been storming for 17 years now, with little relief in sight.

You can see what Mormon leaders have been saying for decades by clicking here and doing a search. Try it for yourself.

So yes, if the prophets of the LDS church says jump, I will, because I already trust their judgment.

And not blindly, but with my eyes and ears wide open.

  1. The LDS Church gives me great comfort.

No other religious organization or philosophical ideal I’ve encountered can provide the depth and breadth of explanations about life and death than the LDS Church. They literally have the meaning of life.

This understanding—that life is a brief but a very important point in our eternal existence—helps me understand why I’m here, what I’m supposed to be doing, and where I want to go afterwards.

This life is a test—a critical, calculated examination—of the nature of our hearts. What do we really, really want? Placed in this mortal state, with problems and struggles, we can truly see what we’re made out of based on how we treat our brothers and sisters.

We’re here to be tried, not to be partying. 

Years ago I worked with a woman who asked me, with the obligatory sneer, why I wanted to be a “good girl” to go to heaven where it undoubtedly would be boring because all anyone ever does is sit around strumming harps and singing. She was planning on going to hell, where all the “cool” people would be.

Befuddled by her overly simplistic ideas of heaven and hell, I hemmed and hawed for a minute before explaining that I believed heaven is a extension of this life where, with our friends and family, we continue to grow and are given greater responsibilities and abilities, whereas hell was a place where all of our regrets and failings torment us with what could have been.

She blinked at that, never having given any real thought to heaven and hell beyond what she saw in Saturday morning cartoons, and never again disparaged my beliefs. In fact, she asked about a few more details over the next few months, and I sensed she was looking for comfort for a pain she couldn’t yet admit feeling.

I recall the song by Eric Clapton called “Tears in Heaven” about the loss of his 4-year-old son. The lyrics are heartbreaking: “Would you know my name/if I saw you in Heaven,” as if the relationships we have on earth would somehow be lost in the next world.

Mormons know that not only will we recognize each other when we die, we’ll know far more about those we love because we’ll remember our relationships we had before we came to this earth.

And additionally, Mormons know that all pain in this life is temporary. 

All frustrations, all troubles, all disappointments will be rectified in the life to come. 

I can’t imagine how I’d live without that understanding. I think I’d be constantly depressed, like the older woman I met at her mother’s funeral.  She knew—knew—that everything about her beloved mother was gone forever. The Mormon bishop conducting the service for the family (because they weren’t affiliated with any religion) tried to assure her that her mother’s spirit was alive and well, and they could be together again someday.

But this woman shook her head and said, “That’s just too good to believe. I can’t accept it.”

Heartbreaking.

She didn’t dare take the comfort, too broken down by this life to imagine any other. I couldn’t live like that.

I need comfort to survive.

  1. What I “sacrifice” to be a Mormon is no sacrifice at all.

You’ve heard it all: Mormons don’t drink, don’t smoke, believe in chastity, fidelity, modesty, charity, and are focused on keep families strong.

Boooorrrring.

When I was 19 I worked in a mall on the east coast where I was the only Mormon among a lot of college students. Frequently they came to work with hangovers, slipped outside to smoke, and complained and fretted about their one-night stands.

I listened to the conversations but never said anything because it wasn’t a world I was part of. Dutifully I’d fold shirts, help customers, and just do my job.

One day a huge shipment came into the store, which meant pizza and beer as we unloaded. After a couple of hours most of the staff was impaired, and when customers rushed the store for the new products, I was the only one sober to deal with them.

The next morning we had to clean up the mess left behind the night before (the manager was as undisciplined as the kids he managed), and as one employee threw up in a trashcan and on a woolen sweater, and another sobbed uncontrollably in the corner because she and another worker had become “too involved” in the back room, someone asked me if I regretted being a Mormon and missing out on all of the fun.

I laughed until I realized he wasn’t being sarcastic.

I glanced around at the chaos and the employees still quite impaired, and said, “I have yet to see any of you have any fun.”

There was a full minute of silence in the store as they contemplated my statement, and since that day I’ve realized that what the world considers a sacrifice to be a Mormon isn’t any sacrifice at all. 

While I may have given up what the world considers “fun,” what I’ve gained instead is peace of mind.
Purpose.
Joy.

If you’re considering investigating the LDS Church, but worry about how difficult transitioning to that life may be, consider this weak but parallel example.

Over a year ago I was tired; bone-weary, deadly tired every single day and needing a two-hour nap just to get by. My brain was also fogged so much that I couldn’t think. I was forgetting important things, such as my 6-year-old out at a friend’s house until they sent her home at 9pm. Plagued also with constant bowel issues, I began to search for some solution to this daily misery that was robbing me of life. I was growing desperate and deeply worried.

I discovered that I was gluten intolerant, and I willingly gave up—for just a week—all the bread that I so dearly loved. In only two days I noticed everything in my life improving, and I made the change permanently. No, it wasn’t easy at first, but it was definitely worth it.

Fast forward to a dinner I had with some friends last month. One of them, enjoying a fluffy roll, apologized to me and said, “I don’t know how you gave up bread.”

“Because once I gave away bread,” I told her, “I got back my brain and my energy. Whenever I’m tempted to eat something I shouldn’t, I think ‘Do I want bread or my brain?’ Even though I’m not a zombie, it’s an easy answer: brains! And while I occasionally miss all things containing gluten, I’d give it up again in a heartbeat.”

Then it hit me: What I gave up at the time seemed like a sacrifice—I still struggle to find worthy equivalents to the food I loved, and would kill for a slice of thick, chewy pizza. But what I got in return was much, much more. I literally got my life back, and I feel 15 years younger (and have even lost weight to boot).

I invite you to find someone who joined the Church, and ask them if they miss what they gave up. Like my mother, they’ll likely say they had to give up alcohol, smoking, or something else, but what they received in return more than made up for what they lost.

In fact, they’ll wished they had “sacrificed” earlier to enjoy sooner what they have now.

  1. I love what I believe.

Some will still think that I’m delusional, that choosing (choice, again) to believe in golden plates and additional scriptures and visiting angels and temple worship and the notion that God still speaks to people is all absurd.

But you know what?

I love all of that.

And this is why Mormons want to tell you all about their religion: we want you to love it as well. 

Think about this: if you find a fantastic restaurant, or watch a movie that blows you away, or read a book that rocks your world, you tell everyone you know about it, right? You want them to share in what you’ve discovered.

So do Mormons. That’s why we send out missionaries (my third one is getting ready to leave at the end of the month for two years), make videos, extend to you invitations, and write blog posts about what we believe.

Now that doesn’t mean you have to embrace what we do. Maybe you don’t like that restaurant your friend recommended because you aren’t keen on curry, and that chick-flick doesn’t have enough car chases, nor do you like to read long books without pictures. No problem. Appreciate that your friend wanted to share with you something they love, then move on.

Same with those trying to share Mormonism with you. Just tell us you’re not interested, and we’ll still be your friend. 

But I’m warning you now–we may try to wave that curry bowl under your nose again every now and then, not because we don’t respect your decisions, but because we have hope you might change your mind someday.

Forgive us. We’re just too darn enthusiastic sometimes.

All people are free to choose what they want to believe—how, where, or what they may. We don’t want to infringe upon your right to believe what you want, nor do we want you to infringe upon our rights. We’re a “live and let live” kind of folk. Works best that way, we think. Let’s just all do what we think is best, and let God sort us out later.

Yet deep in my soul, I feel—scratch that, I know that being a Mormon is the best way to go, at least for me.

Call me delusional, I don’t care. 

But if—if— I wake up dead some day and discover that all of what the Mormons teach was pure nonsense, I still would have believed, because this “nonsense” gives me great joy, and I’d rather eke out my meager existence in delusional joy rather than in the quiet desperation I see ruling the lives of so many that I know and love.

That’s why I choose (choice, again) to be a Mormon. There’s simply nothing better in the world for me.

(7. Bonus reason: The LDS Church makes cool memes; I got all of these from lds.org.)

Why Jeremy Clarkson should be reinstated: he saved my life (and my van’s life)

Dear BBC:

I’m writing to ask you to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson and “Top Gear” because, believe it or not, both saved my life last year. Clarkson photo

I’m not writing to defend Clarkson’s behavior—heaven knows I’d never want him as a husband, and he’d be the brother-in-law I’d “forget” to invite over—but this middle-aged mother of nine (yes, really–nine kids) and grandmother of one owes her life, and the life of our beloved 15-passenger 2001 Ford Econoline van, to Jeremy.

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(I swear I heard Big Blue scream when it happened.)

Last May, in 2014, I was driving Big Blue to work at 7:30am along a four-lane highway in rural Utah at 50 mph. Next to me was a school bus, and trying to make a turn across the highway was a high school student in a Lexus SUV. Seeing the school bus—but not me (first time in my 11 years of driving Big Blue someone did NOT see me coming)—the SUV darted out just as the bus passed, and clipped me on the back right.

As my van careened 180 degrees so that I was skidding sideways then backwards down the road, the very first thought that came into my mind was, “What would Jeremy do?!”

Now, I’m a very religious Christian (LDS—yes, I’m a Mormon), but honestly, I wasn’t praying: I was channeling Jeremy Clarkson. Instantly his voice, in a high-pitched squeal, came into my head, “Hold it! Hold it! Hold it!”

So I did—I held it! Firming my grip on the steering wheel and slamming on my brakes, I maintained control of Big Blue. It smacked into the curb then, according to witnesses, the police report, and the evidence of the clumps of turf embedded in the tow bar,  0506140735b my van did a pirouette of sorts on the grass bank, turning once again another 180 degrees,

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Yes, follow those tire tracks and explain to me what exactly happened there. All I knew was, “Hold it! Hold it! Hold it!”

tearing a gouge in the turf,  popping off my back tire,

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Another clump of turf on the wheel rim. I know the van pitched sharply at one point, but that’s a little ridiculous.

and landing me at a gas station, just a few feet (that’s a couple of meters to the rest of the world) from eight gas pumps. Safely.

I had the presence of mind to shut off my van, then staggered out to see a couple of men running up to me, astonished.
“That was some ‘Top Gear’ driving, wasn’t it?” I exclaimed proudly.

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I’m particularly proud of the mess I made on the road, curb, and sidewalks. I’ve left my mark in the world, literally.

Unfortunately, my would-be rescuers were rural rednecks who had never watched “Top Gear,” and for a few moments people thought that maybe I was drunk or on drugs that early in the morning.

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Still trying to understand what my tires were doing to leave such skid marks.

But soon that was sorted out (the police and the father of the teenage girl who hit me are also “Top Gear” fans).

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In the distance, next to the red fire hydrant, is the car that hit me, and where we crashed. On the left is Big Blue, exactly where she landed.

Everyone who saw the distance I traveled, the spinning I did, and the way I brought the van to a stop without damaging myself or the gas station (the owners were the most panicked) all agreed that the accident was miraculous.

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The pumps are just a few yards (meters) to the right, but I didn’t hit them. If the back tire wasn’t off, I could have driven away (and my tow hitch wouldn’t have left that lovely gouge in the asphalt).

I think it also nothing short of a miracle that Jeremy Clarkson was in my head.
That God would stick him there?
Shocking and amazing.

My van was “totaled,” as was the Lexus.0506140820b

But 10 months later I’m still driving Big Blue (the shop fixed her up enough to keep her running). We just hit 200,000 miles, and I’m hoping for at least 50,000 more.

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In honor of all thing great and British, it was raining this morning in the desert when we took this picture.

I’ll be the first to admit the Jeremy Clarkson is an idiot, obnoxious, and frequently inappropriate. But “Top Gear” is first and foremost entertainment, and it is very entertaining.  And I must admit that it did save me and my van.

Please reinstate Jeremy Clarkson and “Top Gear.” My older kids learn driving tips (seriously), and we watch the specials to teach our kids about geography (seriously, again). For the sake of this forty-five-year-old mom and grandma, give us back Clarkson!

Sincerely,

Trish Mercer

(And my apologies to the BBC for the email I sent previously, where I accidentally spelled Clarkson’s last name with a “t”. I honestly thought there was one in there. See, I love England so much, I believe there’s “t” [tea] in everything.)

The $8/hour job

“I can’t believe he’s paying her only $8/hour. She’s a college student!”

I wasn’t entirely sure what the speaker meant by this, so I swallowed down my pride at his comment because I’ve taken several $8/hour jobs. Not only was I highly (overly) qualified for the work, but I also had two college degrees.

Yet I’m not ashamed of those $8/hour jobs. In fact, I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.

Nearly eight years ago we had just moved to a new and unfamiliar town for my husband’s job, but the company that hired him was bought out, and the new owners fired everyone. Abruptly we found ourselves with eight children and zero income. Immediately both of us started searching. My husband quickly got a job answering phones for $8/hour, and since it was a month and a half before Christmas, I applied at a clothing store as seasonal help.

Within two hours of starting that job, I remembered why I hated retail. I don’t like clothes, and I don’t like spending money. I kept watching the job ads and noticed one: “Student editor wanted to review graduate papers. Must be English major, at least a junior. $8/hour.”

I ignored it, thinking I was overqualified. At my retail job, no one knew I was “educated” or had been a college instructor for a dozen years.

But two weeks later that ad ran again, and while I wondered why no students jumped at the chance to fill their resumes, I sent mine in.

The next day I got a call; the day after I got an interview.

The professor in charge of the department sighed apologetically when he saw me. “You should be paid twice-and-a-half this rate, but $8/hour is all the university will grant me. My graduate students are mostly international and need help with their English to get published. Want to give it a shot? I think you might be the only applicant with enough experience to make sense of their writing.”

No other professional opportunities had come up, I could do some of the work at home where my 5-month-old nursing baby was, and I really, really hated trying to peddle clothes. I took the job, even though I initially thought it beneath me.

But I learned, oh–so much!

I had to discover what Bayesian networks were, and ArcGIS, and a bunch of other terms and acronyms used in geosciences that I’ve never again encountered. I met men from Turkey and India and Malaysia. A middle-eastern colleague of my boss also sent his papers asking if “the girl” would edit his submissions to a conference.

But mostly I learned how to edit and write.
From a geosciences department, of all places.
I learned more there, I’m embarrassed to say, than I ever did studying and teaching English. Because when these men were trying to get their research ready for publication, they went over their writing again and again and again—dozens of times–just to get it right.

I’d always written against an artificial deadline of, “This is due in two weeks, so I can assign another meaningless essay.” Never before had I worked on several projects all due in “maybe by next year.” It was a fascinating collaborative experience, and I felt much more like an apprentice being graced with $8/hour than a so-called professional editor.

Sometimes I think the only reason we lived in Idaho Falls—and it was only for nine months—was so that I could finally learn how to edit and write, and edit and write.

I got much more than $8/hour.

A couple of years later, and in another city, I took a temporary job helping a lawyer promote a BYU alumni event. He needed someone to take it over for the four weeks leading up to it, and our family needed a few extra bucks. When he interviewed me, he looked at my resume, sighed, and said, “You deserve a lot more than $8/hour, but that’s all I can budget for now. Will it be enough?”

Sure, why not? I might learn a few things, who knows.

Oh I learned–so much!

I learned to plan, to budget, to make arrangements for performers, to feed a crew of 125, and to get people in the seats.  The event was successful, and the lawyer decided he wanted to keep me on for the next one in six months. In between events he had me doing public relations work, which really wasn’t a good fit for me, but I tried. He also handed me his daughter’s manuscript which she’d written during college but was afraid to continue.

“She doesn’t know I printed this out, but I want you to edit it and convince her to keep working on it. I think it’s terrific, but I’m only her dad.” So for $8/hour I edited her book, fascinated that a “regular” young woman had written such a full fantasy novel. I did try to convince her to keep going, and gave her a list of websites full of advice and strategies, a copy of which I also took home with me.

When the law firm’s business slowed some months later, I volunteered to quit (I’d been there much longer than I’d expected anyway) and left to start writing my own novels.

Sometimes I think I worked there just to realize that I was capable of writing a book, too.

Now this past summer financial constraints required that I find steady work again. In the interim since the law firm, I’d acquired another teaching job (only one class a semester, and only if the need arose), had edited for an online company (until they ran out of work), and edited a couple of locally-written novels here, and a few doctoral dissertations there. But it wasn’t enough to keep our family afloat while my husband tried again to find better work.

So, once again, I started looking for a job and, finding nothing in my professional field, looked yet again “beneath” me. I was offered a manufacturing job where the boss hoped my professionalism might bring the other women in line. Realizing he was actually hiring me as a babysitter for gangster chicks, I kept looking and eventually was offered a job . . .

. . . doing laundry.

For $9/hour. (Hey, the economy’s improving, right?)

The supervisor who interviewed me looked at my resume, sighed, and said, “English instructor to laundry lady? Are you sure about this?”

The fact that my utility bill wouldn’t be paid the next month if I didn’t get a job that day made me very sure about it.

Besides, I might learn something.

And I’ve learned–so, so much!

I’ve learned that one person’s definition of clean isn’t the same as another’s. I’ve learned to prioritize, to be detail-oriented, and to deal with some occasionally unpleasant surprises. More interestingly, however, I’ve learned a lot about people, and what makes them tick.

And I’ve learned that a younger coworker, also a college graduate and also earning only $9/hour, is trying to write her first trilogy. We work together on Saturday afternoons and I’ve discovered that nearly every writing bump and roadblock she’s encountering, I’ve already dealt with. I’ve been able to give her advice, ideas, and strategies for drafting her books, and later this month she’ll give me her first manuscript to review.

Sometimes I think the main reason I’m working as a laundry lady (that’s seriously the job title) for $9/hour is so that I can help someone else have a shot at her dream of becoming an author.

I’m not going to charge her, either (unlike the older man whose book I edited for $20/hour for a dozen hours, the payment of which will cover my car insurance and cell phone bills this month). I’m giving my coworker my time for free because so many friends and family are giving me their time for free as well, reading my drafts and returning book 4 this month with their comments and questions. The only payment I can offer them is the mention of their names at the end of my books. Without their help, I could never do this.

As for the person who bemoaned that his college student daughter was making “only $8/hour,” I submit this:
No, it’s not great money. It’s hard-earned, sweaty money, and still not enough to support a person, not to mention a family.
But in no other work have I ever learned as much as I did in jobs I worked for $8 or $9/hour.

And sometimes—no, quite often—that’s far more important than the cash.