Monday, September 1, 2008

Through Hard Work and Hope

He started his working life in a bakery.

Up at 3 A.M. to have the bread made on time. What little money he made went mostly to feed his siblings and keep them clothed and healthy. It was the best an uneducated young man could hope for at the time.

Tired, dusted head to toe in flour, I envision him dragging his body home every day, willingly handing over his day’s earnings with a loaf of bread.

Soon, another opportunity happened along and he was quick to take it. It meant more money, better hours and there was a little room for growth. To start, all it required was pumping gas, checking tires and oil, and scrubbing a lot of windows. It was called full service – and that’s exactly what it was too.

It was a good opportunity for an uneducated rural Missouri boy still dealing with the difficult and not-too-distant memories of WWII. People would come by the gas station and shout to Little Oz, a handle he earned early on because of his father, Oswald.

But I knew him simply as Dad.

While working at the gas station, Dad got an opportunity to apply at the Chevy plant in Kansas City. It meant a 50-plus mile trip by bus every day but the pay was decent and there was real potential for him there. With that kind of job, he must have thought, he could start building a foundation that would allow him to eventually support a family. And there he stayed…for the next 45 years.

While I’m not quite sure what my father ever thought about his job, his hard work and dedication gave my brothers and me opportunities he never had.

The thing is, as hard as Dad worked on that factory line, he was no more dedicated than a good deal of the fathers – or mothers for that matter – who toil day in and day out in slums around the world in hopes that their children will someday have opportunities they never did.

I’ve met them myself in the villages of India, the shanty towns of Honduras and slums of Colombia. Some work in banana plantations for 12 hours a day, six days a week. Others ferry passengers on beaten and broken bicycle taxis. They work cutting sugar cane, hauling bricks, selling fruits and vegetables on street corners in the searing heat; most are willing to do whatever it takes so their families survive.

A decent wage is hard to come by for most of them. Like my father, many of them have never completed a basic education, yet they face circumstances where hard work and dedication don’t often amount to much.

It’s good to know that some do get ahead. Sheer force of will or ingenuity does it sometimes. Others take advantage of small loans and business training provided by Children International. They learn a skill, are trained to run a business and then given the opportunity to make something of it. Not surprisingly, many of them do.

Today, Labor Day, is for all the parents, here and elsewhere, who work themselves to the bone in the hopes that their children can eat, stay healthy and maybe, just maybe, have it just a little better than they did.

My hat is off to them. And to Dad…thanks.

Posted on behalf of Scott Cotter.

1 comment:

Don Shetterly - Relaxing Piano Music said...

My hat is off to these people as well. It is always good to stop and reflect on all that we do have as well as give to those that have a little less. When we lift others up, we lift ourselves up.