My very first paid job was in the fast food industry - specifically, Panda Express. My junior year of high school had just ended, and I was in need of something productive to do that summer. Conveniently, a new Panda Express was built right across my neighborhood, within a 10 minute walk from my front door.
A combination of excitement to finally make my own money and in need of a summer activity, I applied for a job at Panda Express. To my surprise, I received a call from the owner only 14 hours later, asking when I could come in for an interview. Two days later, I got the job.
My very first realization after working at Panda Express, was that I lived a good life, and I wasn't thankful enough for it. I was lucky enough to have parents who always pushed me to do my very best, who supported me through thick and thin.
I've never had to worry about where my next meal was coming from or whether or not I could afford to buy new shoes for the school year. With that said, I've also never been the girl who could casually take a cross-country trip to the beach. I've looked for sales whenever possible, and I tried my hardest to not go over my monthly budget.
Some of my coworkers had different situations, though. I worked with some girls whose paychecks at a fast food restaurant went straight towards paying their rent and covering the costs of raising their children as single mothers.
After working in fast food for a month as well as retail for another month, I realized that not everyone has it good and well. And that's all the more reason to help others in times of need. Since then, I've always tried to donate a little at the grocery store whenever my grocer asks me for a donation. I smile and say hi to people I pass, hoping to spread a smile to someone who needs one.
It's the little things that matter, and it's the little things that we often aren't grateful enough for. Working a minimum-wage job helped me realize that.