When Isaac returned home from work, Charlie was waiting for him by the door. Isaac smiled at him as he changed his shoes. “Hey, kiddo. What’s up?”
Charlie scuffed the toes of his shoes against the carpet. “I need help with my homework.”
Isaac hung his coat up. “Okay. I’m ready now. Lead the way.”
He followed Charlie down the hall to his room. Charlie turned his desk chair around and sat down. Isaac pulled the chair by the bookshelf over and sat facing him.
“I’m supposed to write about what I want to do when I grow up.” Charlie picked up a paper off his desk and turned it to face Isaac. The assignment written on it was just as Charlie reported.
“You mean like a bucket list? Things you want to do before you die?” That sounded like a fun assignment. Someday Isaac wanted to sit down and write a list like that. The challenge would be to narrow it down to the things you really, really wanted to do. There were just so many interesting things in the world, and not enough time to see and try them all.
“No.” Charlie looked glum. “The teacher says she wants to know what job we want to do. I don’t know what job I want. It would be easy if I was good at something like climbing mountains or playing an instrument or baking pies. I’m not really good at anything. I’m just boring old Charlie.”
That was just silly. “How could you be boring? You are one of the most interesting people I know.” Isaac threw his hands up in the air. “Do you know who’s boring? Trolls. They sit under bridges waiting for food to walk by. And if you walk up to them without crossing the bridge, they don’t connect you with the bridge-crossing people they think of as food. They aren’t even smart enough to grab the fish that swim around nibbling on their toes. I’m not sure they realize that they have toes. Try talking to a troll sometime. So boring.”
Charlie laughed. “I definitely don’t want to grow up to be a troll.”
“Or a dragon. All that gold would make such an uncomfortable bed. Breathing fire when you have a cold would be uncomfortable too. Not to mention dangerous.”
“You’d burn up all your friends when you sneeze on them.” Charlie pretended to sneeze and then made a shocked face that dissolved into a grin.
“Much worse than the Midas touch,” Isaac agreed. “Although I don’t think either one would be very nice.”
“There, you see. I don’t have any interesting curses either. No talents, no curses, no super powers. I don’t even know what kind of job I want.” Charlie frowned.
“You have lucky socks,” Isaac pointed out. “That’s pretty neat.”
“Well maybe my socks can get a nice job someday then.”
“They’d have a hard time filling out a job application.” Isaac wiggled his fingers. “They don’t have any hands, you know. Or arms or legs or brains or anything really. And why would socks need a different job than being socks?”
“I need another job than being just Charlie someday,” Charlie pointed out.
“You’ll still be Charlie. That’s not a job really. Being Charlie is extra special and important. The job is more to give you something good to do to help people. If you don’t feel like your job helps people somehow, it’s probably not a good job.”
“Oh.” Charlie thought for a moment. “I do like to help people. I don’t know how I want to help people though.”
Isaac nodded. “There are lots of ways to help people. People need lots of different things. Food to eat, places to live, safety, health, fun things to do…”
“…And that’s why there’s so many different jobs.” Charlie nodded. “I understand.”
“And the way people help each other changes, so jobs change, too.”
Charlie looked down at his paper. “But this doesn’t help me figure out what to write for my homework. I still don’t know what job I want to do.”
“You do know that writing something down for this assignment doesn’t mean that’s what you have to do someday. You can change your mind. Most people do, lots of times. You can even change jobs if you try something out and don’t like it. I think this assignment is just meant to give you a chance to start thinking about it.”
“Hmmmm. Then I want to be a dinosaur doctor. I’m sure they’ll need them someday when the dinosaurs come back.” Charlie smiled. “I would help a lot of people who would be sad if the dinosaurs were sick.”
Isaac nodded. “You would help the dinosaurs, too. It would be a thousand times better than being a troll.”
Charlie laughed and started writing on his paper. “Thanks for your help, Dad.”
“Anytime, Charlie.” Isaac stood up and paused. “You know that I think ‘just Charlie’ is pretty special, right?”
Charlie looked up. “That’s because you love me.”
“Of course I do.” Isaac smiled and put the chair back by the bookshelf.
Charlie started writing again. “Dad,” he said without looking up, “You’ll read my essay when I’m done, right?”
“Of course I will.”
Charlie smiled. “I love you too.”