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Holding It Down

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(Mybrotha.COM) - I was talking to a friend the other day and the subject of bills and finances came up. The topic seemed natural since millions of us are struggling financially, and the global economy is behaving like a spoiled 5-year old. Unfortunately for us, this particular 5-year old doesn't have a set of parents to whip its backside.

As our conversation continued, I asked my friend how he was keeping things together with a wife and two pre-teens. His wife is great, but twelve year old twin boys can ravage a refrigerator full of food, and outgrow a set of clothes in a few months. It's not like I had to tell him this; he was living it every day.

My friend talked about his primary job no longer being sufficient for supporting his family, and needing to work a second job. I was amazed. How could a brotha who puts in 8-hour days in corporate America manage to slip in a second gig? What type of second job did he have, and how much time was he siphoning away from his family?

According the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 7.6 million Americans hold down more than one job. These so-called "moonlighters" comprise 5 percent of the working population. Of these, 4 million work full-time at their primary job and part-time at their other job.

I have always known that African-American men are some of the hardest working beings on the planet. We are a huge piece of that 7.6 million. Some of us work harder than others, and after speaking with my friend, I was beginning to feel like I was one of the "others." I work hard, but trying to manage two jobs and still support a house, wife and kids would push me to my limits.

In addition to his 8-hour a day, 5-day a week job as a pharmaceutical sales rep, my friend goes completely blue collar at nights. A year ago, he began working an 8pm-11pm shift as a stock person at a local retail store. He typically runs home after his last appointment to catch a quick dinner and maybe even a short nap. By 7:10pm., he's back in his car--only this time he's wearing jeans, an Atlanta Falcons cap, and carries a box-cutter as he travels to his second money maker.

Bills and debt will haunt those who are unprepared and unwilling to go the extra mile. We all know these types of people. They are the brothas who constantly complain about a lack of money, but never seem willing to do much about it. My friend isn't one of those men.

But it isn't just my friend who walks the extra mile when it comes to commitment. Twenty-seven percent of workers age 16 and older work more than 40 hours a week. About 7 percent work 60 or more hours a week. My friend belongs in the latter group.

Still, I found myself puzzled by the amount of dedication this brotha was giving to making some extra cheese. He doesn't live in an elaborate house, buy expensive cars, or wear fancy clothes. He doesn't own a new iPhone or laptop either. In fact, he works so much, it appears that he never has time to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

I soon realized that my friend wasn't motivated by money; he was propelled and inspired by his family and his desire to be a great father. To him, fatigue takes a backseat to anything and everything needed to support his family. If he had to work five jobs, I have no doubt he would have five different paychecks at the end of the week.

He admitted it's a huge sacrifice. He doesn't spend as much time as he would like with his kids and wife, but noted that it's only temporary. He would rather work multiple jobs and acquire enough money to become debt free now, rather than continue struggling with debt for the next 15 years.

I have to admit he inspired me. The energy and effort he puts into building a strong family is commendable, and I am searching for a second job as I type this.

I can imagine we're both looking forward to the day when neither of us have to hold down any jobs.

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