Thoughts for 99%-ers from a once-homeless kid

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Some truths only become clear when time elapses while intelligence and living occur.  Life and death are very-much alike in that either way one can rest at day’s end.  What differentiates the two is what one does with his day of life.rehearsal dinner speech

If one uses his property — say, intelligence, experience, insight, talents, physical strengths and agility and endurance — to the benefit of others in a “profitable” way — i.e., where they willingly pay relatively handsomely for the resulting product or service — whether while employed by another or by self, one will be able to afford the necessary nourishment and shelter and more to enjoy the end-of-day rest enroute to living another day tomorrow.  If one chooses to not employ his property or if how he does so isn’t valued by others, he gets to tomorrow and life if, and only if, others choose to support his sorry self.

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I started to learn some of this when more than a half-century ago, age sixteen and a high school sophomore, I found myself alone and homeless, son of two alcoholic parents, and my father — I suppose influenced by alcohol — ordered me out and gone.  I concluded quickly that I’d need food and shelter and to continue with high school.  I got a job washing pots and pans at a hotel restaurant.  That produced money, albeit not much, and a couple of meals per day.  After a week, I rented a room in a house.

I immediately determined to be the best pot washer ever.  I consulted with both managers and the cooks, asking what was the worst thing about my job performance.  I begged for any complaint.  Three weeks later I graduated from pots and pans to dishes and glassware.  I determined to be the best and continued to beg for any complaint.   Three weeks later I graduated to busboy and room-service waiter.  Three weeks later I became a dining room waiter and — seeking to be the best-ever — started to earn big tips, some way larger than the bill.

Somewhere in that process and progress, it became clear to me that — vis-a-vis “if how he does so isn’t valued by others” — the “Golden Rule” is dead wrong and that the right rule is, “Do unto others as they want to be done unto.”

It had never occurred to me to seek government assistance or, for that matter, even private charity.   After about three-or-so months, my best friend and co-captain with me of our high school track and cross country teams, persuaded me to move in with his family.  He had talked with his parents and they had agreed that some adult influence and love would be beneficial.  I’m glad that I was smart enough to agree.  That “Dad” — I still call him that — is now in his nineties, and his son and I spent the last two weeks together with our wives in Hawaii.

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Now at age seventy I use “natural law” — the rational and logical study and analysis of what can be, of of what can make sense — to determine that each human 105being comes sovereign (subject to no other without explicit permission), and with the unalienable rights to life, to liberty (the right to do whatever the heck one wants . . . just as long as not infringing on others’ like rights), and to property (from whence comes the pursuit of happiness), and that no one — not a sole soul — has a right to stuff, to commodities, like groceries, housing, healthcare, etc.  And I continue to use experience to conclude that most — even a homeless-sixteen-year-old — can use his property to survive, maybe thrive, if committed to doing so.  I conclude using both that the upside of doing so is immeasurable.

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For the summer between my junior and senior years of high school I took a job parking cars at an exclusive country club in Purchase, New York at a robust $1.25 per hour.  Mindful of the “right rule” and committed to becoming the best-ever “car parker”, I knew that it wasn’t about parking cars, but rather about exceeding member expectations . . . a bunch.  During the latter half of June, the months of July and August, and the first two weeks of September I cleared, after taxes, just under $11,000.  (And remember, we’re talking about 1959)   During those three-ish months there were four big party nights, all Saturdays.  On those four occasions I hired out of my pocket four helpers, each at $1.25 per hour.  I directed them, then opened each and every driver-side door with my left hand while accepting folded large-denomination bills with my right.

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I talk here of these exploits, not to pat my own back or beat my own chest, but to say that at least 75% of all Americans — now  47.7 million of them — on food stamps could be doing what I did at age 16 and 17 and then moving up to bigger and better things from there.  I absolutely guarantee that today as a septuagenarian, if I took a job as a “greeter” at my local WalMart, I’d have locals taking out-of-town guests there to shop just to experience my greeting them, and I’d single-handedly increase the store’s dollar volume.reception picture 004

As brilliantly envisioned and designed by our Founders America was an opportunity society, opportunity only limited by one’s individual choices and behaviors.  Only slavery proscribed that, and the Founders knew that it would have to end one way or another and as soon as possible.  Not everyone has the shooting touch and a 40+-inch vertical to play in the NBA or a 140 I.Q. and MENSA membership or is drop-dead gorgeous or handsome, but most — only excepting the severely-challenged physically or especially mentally — can be a special pot washer or dishwasher or waiter or car parker, then more.

For the great majority of Americans who are “poor”, that condition is temporary sort of like being pregnant.  If income levels are divided into quintiles, from any decade to the next (at least through 2008) more from the lowest quintile, say in 1990 were in the third or fourth quintiles in 2000 than remained in the first.  And some from the fifth or top quintile in 1990 were in the lowest in 2000.  America — despite progressives’ rhetoric and obfuscation — has never had classes like other societies.  There has been no “upper” or “lower” or “middle” classes.  There has been opportunity, only limited by one’s own choices and behaviors.

America’s so-called “1%-ers” shouldn’t be envied, shouldn’t be hated, shouldn’t be eviscerated, shouldn’t be taxed more; they should be emulated, appreciated, and applauded.   Those who have chosen to label themselves “99%-ers” should see that they have chosen to behave in ways so as to remain unsuccessful.  The Founders’ America placed no external limits on these folks, but could not excorcise self-imposed barriers.  Having government pay for one’s food self-limits.  Having government pay for one’s healthcare self-limits.  Having government pay for one’s housing self-limits.  Having government impose a so-called “minimum wage” self-limits.

If one wishes to self-limit, that is an unalienable right.  But please stop whining about it, and please stop insisting that government rob from me to pay for your sorry self.

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7 Comments

Filed under America implodes, business, culture, economics, education, health and wellness, politics

7 responses to “Thoughts for 99%-ers from a once-homeless kid

  1. rceccucci@comcast.net

    Pete, always enjoy your writings including today’s focus on your blue collar early years. I can easily relate to this humble beginning to your successful life. It’s shameful that we’ve become so soft as a Nation and, in too many cases, thumb our noses at actual work and expect success to be handed to us instead of earning it…as you did. Randy

    Sent from my U.S. Cellular® Android-powered device

    • I don’t know — from lack of experience — whether, Randy, happiness achieved from pursuit of it feels different from happiness achieved the Dominoes way (getting it delivered). I’m guessing, however, that the pursuit route is sweeter. Thanks for chiming in, sir.

  2. CW

    Yours is a very inspirational story, Drpete.

    What the Left does when intentionally fostering jealousy and resentment between rich and poor for the purpose of enhancing their own power is nothing short of pure evil.

    As I’ve said before, one of the greatest tragedies of liberalism is that it makes people cynical and by doing so it hurts those who truly are in need.

    • Vis-a-vis that cynicism and what in my essay I said to the whiners and gimmees, and to your point about those few in true need, I have signed on to our local Catholic Charities organization to donate time as well as money. The priest who is executive director insists that each recipient do all that he or she can do for themselves as condition of being helped. With THAT, CW, I am aboard.

      • CW

        That priest has the right idea and I don’t doubt that you’re a generous man when the need is there. I just always like to point out – for anyone who’ll listen – the irony that the liberals who SUPPOSEDLY are so concerned for “the poor” do far more harm than good with their meddling. If it weren’t for the libs making it a sin to question anyone with their hand out, those rare few who are sincerely in crisis could get all the help they need. That’s the real legacy of liberalism.

    • It just occurred to me, CW, that my story should NOT be “inspirational”. It should be matter-of-fact and commonplace.

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