I was recently complimented on my work ethic and my immediate, candid, almost word-vomit response was, “I was raised that way.”

And I was.

It wasn’t because my mama was a corporate workaholic; she was far from it. She was a stay-at-home mom for the first half of my life. She raised my brother, my handicapped sister and me in a double-wide trailer she kept so immaculate and beautiful it felt like we lived in the best house in the best suburban neighborhood that ever existed. 

Raising three children is enough work in itself but for one of them to be handicapped, that’s like three kids in one. So in theory my mama raised a lot of children. My sister, Andi, was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome just before her first birthday. It’s a deletion of Chromosome 15 and it causes her to be developmentally delayed; she can’t walk, talk, feed herself or do many of the basic things you and I can. However, she’s constantly laughing and in a good mood — like an “angel.” 

Andi has always been a full-time job. When I was little especially, she didn’t sleep, and if she did it wasn’t at nighttime. Between taking care of her and her special needs, taking care of my brother and myself (I definitely had something along the lines of spoiled youngest child syndrome), she was a busy woman. Andi had physical therapy sometimes multiple times a week; doctors’ appointments; there were errands to run; there was always something. 

When I look back, I don’t remember Mama sitting still. Ever. I do have a picture of her sitting to prove it, but if I didn’t have that I wouldn’t be so sure.

She raised us and she raised us well at that. 

We moved from Georgia to Alabama when I was in third grade. Mama had to get a job therefore Andi was moved in the nursing home just a couple miles up the road from our house. My mama’s childhood best friend works there and she is well taken care of. 

Mama worked in an office the rest of my childhood and adult life but I still don’t give that credit for my work ethic. It is just something that was instilled in me due to how she worked in general — how she worked to be an advocate for Andi, how she worked to make sure we were taken care of, how she worked to make sure we’d never worry, how she worked to make us the best lunches while she just nibbled on the cut-off crust from our sandwiches, how she worked to teach us how to be good people, the list goes on. 

As soon as I turned 16, I was ready to work. My first job was at Chick-fil-A where it was indeed “my pleasure” to work. I learned a lot there. Simultaneously I worked at the after-school care program at my school taking care of 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-year olds. When I was 17, I started my own photography business. In college, I always had a job. Before I even graduated Troy University, I’d had two interviews with different companies and quickly accepted a job here at Tallapoosa Publishers.

I’ve always loved to work and known the importance of work. I wanted to work to be able to pay for my own things, to be responsible and to learn the life lessons I knew I’d learn by working. 

While I wasn’t raised in a workaholic home, I was raised on values that taught me to be that of one — to know the importance of work, to appreciate and value my own work and that of others and to do what I love and love doing it. 

Santana Wood is the assistant managing editor of TPI's newspapers.