It started with a desire to learn more about her family's traditions and earn a little spending money in the process.
By Mary Dunbar, Friend
This was one of my favorite days at work ever―in seven years! Makayla*
baked 23 sweet potato pies from scratch and sold them in order to make
some spending money ahead of the holidays!
She wrote out the grocery list. We went shopping, and she picked out
all of the ingredients. She peeled the potatoes, cut them, boiled them,
mashed them and added all of the ingredients. She spent about 12 hours
in the kitchen with her grandma learning her family’s recipe and
mastering the art of making sweet potato pies!
Makayla, who is 12-years-old, can get frustrated and shut down when
challenged. I even noted to a coworker the day before that I knew this
was going to be a challenging experience for her, and there was a chance
she would give up. When I picked her up, she was tired, hungry and not
excited to deliver the pies. We talked about how she almost quit at one
point and told her grandma she could keep the money and finish the pies,
but then she managed to jump back in.
We identified things that made it challenging. She baked all day
yesterday and didn't eat. Her little siblings were crying and wanting
her to hold them while cooking. She had gotten really frustrated with
how long it was taking. We talked about how those are realities for so
many people. We talked about perseverance, self-determination,
self-management, positive relationships and more.
As we were dropping off the pies, she started talking with people
about the process. She described how challenging it was and how she had
wanted to give up. She began reflecting on how her hard work was earning
her money, and she was actually providing a service–giving people
something that she had put hard work into!
As we went along, she counted her money, subtracting the cost of the ingredients and kept a running total of her earnings.
One coworker bought a pie to donate. As we were delivering the pies,
Makayla saw a woman with a sign saying that she had two young kids. We
pulled over, and Makayla got out to give the woman the pie. The woman
thanked Makayla profusely and noted her kids would enjoy it. Makayla got
back into the car and said, "Do you think I should give her $10 of the
money I earned? I'm really feeling like giving and sharing today." She
jumped back out and gave the woman $10. When she returned, she talked
about how good it felt to help someone else.
On the way home, she opened up about where she was emotionally in life and the challenges that she and her family were facing.
In the end, she totally rocked it! This was a big project, and she
took it on, worked through her frustrations, and accomplished her goal!
She earned $166, and perhaps best of all, learned her family’s sweet
potato pie recipe!
Much appreciation to everyone who bought a pie and for your kind,
gracious, thoughtful interactions with Makayla. I hope the pies were
Thank you all, and Happy Holidays.
*Youth's name changed to protect their identity. Photo shown is not of the individuals in the story.