During dinner on the Rebuild America Defeat Obama bus tour, a fascinating discussion evolved amongst our team. Someone said he fears who we have become as a people — a nation in which a majority believes it normal to receive government handouts. He witnessed people using food stamps to purchase extravagant foods. Someone else chimed in about the huge kiosk in the lobby of his daughter’s elementary school encouraging parents to sign up their child for free lunches. Parents who can well afford to feed their children are on the free lunch program.
While their examples are anecdotal, my team members conclude that we are rapidly losing the self-reliant individual spirit which has made us great and are trending towards becoming a nation of takers, making government dependency the new normal.
Their negative prediction regarding the new America was pretty depressing. But as they spoke, my mind wandered to a story my 84-year-old black dad told me about his first job.
When dad was around eleven, he and his buddy were shoe-shine boys at the Greyhound Bus station in Baltimore — Saturday night through Sunday morning.
Folks, Dad has had an amazing life with numerous achievements — first black Baltimore City Firefighter of the Year, first black paramedic, a pastor of numerous churches, and an author.
And yet, when Dad told me, over the phone, about the salesmanship and creativity he and his buddy employed as young entrepreneurs shining shoes, I could hear in his voice the pride and joy he still felt about it.
Their deal with management was a dime base pay plus tips. Dad excitedly said, “The money was in the tips.” So he and his buddy made their customers’ shoe-shine experience an entertaining show. They twirled their shoe-shine brushes high into the air and caught them. They made rhythmic popping sounds with their shoe-shine rag.
After the shine, they used a whisk broom to brush down the gentleman’s suit. Amazingly, there was always a little something on back of the gentleman’s suit requiring a little extra effort to remove. They were always successful, and gentlemen were appreciative.
On a good weekend, Dad made $1.25. He gave Aunt Nee, who raised him, 50 cents. He purchased a t-shirt. Dad said he bragged to his friends: “I am paying rent and buying my own clothes now.” In Dad’s mind, he had become a man. What was the magic ingredient that made Dad feel so good about himself?
The answer is individual personal achievement.