Desire

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Each of us is born cold, naked, crying, and hungry.

No matter what our birth procedure, no matter what family or sector of society, no matter where on the face of Planet Terra we're born, those four facts are absolute constants... cold, naked, crying, and hungry.

Any individual can be born into abject poverty, or extreme wealth, or anywhere in between, but no matter what financial status he's born into there's no guarantee he, or she, will stay there... or must stay there.

There's example after example of kids born into high society who wind up as, or not much higher on the social ladder than, skid row bums just as there's example after example of kids who are born to poverty and rise above it to become as successful as they want to be, in what ever field they decide to pursue.

Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Billy Falcon begin the first song on the latest Bon Jovi album with:

I don't wanna be another wave in the ocean
I am a rock not just another grain of sand
I wanna be the one you run to when you need a shoulder
I ain't a soldier but I'm here to take a stand
Because we can

Not just another wave, nor one of many grains of sand... if we overlook the later frufru girlie love song stuff and the fact, as my favorite TreeHugger once commented, Bon Jovi and Sambora have great hair, but understand that all of the band members come from working class families, those first two lines say a lot don't they.

When I read statements, demands actually, such as presented here on Chattanoogan.com, dated 14 April and 21 April 2013, by an organization whose purported focus (the singular form of the plural foci) is the advancement of a specific group of individuals, and those demands are for government action rather than personal acceptance of responsibility, I have to stop and wonder what universe they might be wandering around in.

Government action, and intervention...

Having been raised by a woman who was divorced long before divorce was cool, it's been rather interesting to watch our society change as it has. You see, I was able to watch that lady who raised me, my mother, the woman who's always taken great delight in reminding me I kept her up all night when I was born, and many more since, try and try and try to raise herself above the meager income status she was relegated to because of her lack of education and the family into which she was born. I watched as she went to school to become a computer programmer back in the early days when programming was done with wire and a soldering iron, then couldn't get a job in the field because she had no experience. I watched the disappointment in her eyes as she left her children at home to go to night school, decades before on-line training courses came into vogue, because her life hadn't worked out the way it was supposed to... grow up, get married, stay home and raise children, keep house, and everyone lives happily ever after. Back in those days there was no NAASWGG (National Association for the Advancement of Sort of White Guys and Girls) to help her when she needed a little assistance.

There still isn't.

I was also the victim of her demands for good grades and hard work in school because she refused to allow her children to grow up as she had, with limited horizons due to limited education. I can remember, as if it was yesterday, the time she got called to school for a special parent/teacher conference, the words and tone in her voice as she very clearly enunciated through gritted teeth "you had better not be in trouble at school," and the twinkle in her eye when she got home that day just as I can still see her in the yard jumping up and down, in high heels, screaming "I hope you have 13 little boys just like you!" She never would say what Mrs. Edwards told her in that conference.

Going back to those Chattanoogan.com articles, the appearance of that group laying blame for poor education and a call for government, business, and industry to provide "real jobs" without demanding the community and parents to accept their own responsibility is a subject for another day. It did, however, call to mind an old segment of a 60 Minutes program back in the early 1970s. The segment concerned the prevalence of low education at the jailhouse and included an interview with a convict, a resident of the big house, the Crossbar Hotel, compliments of the tax paying citizens of California, who had enrolled in, and subsequently dropped out of, several study and job training programs during his lengthy stay, a stay that was not over yet. ConvictDud, if memory serves correctly, was working in the prison laundry but had been given the opportunity to earn his GED as well as several job training programs. He had the opportunity to pick what ever career field his little old heart desired, but either failed or dropped out of every one, something on the order of 20 of them. When asked why by the interviewer, his response was that he had no responsibility to learn... it was the State's responsibility to teach him.

How's that supposed to work? Why doesn't he have responsibility to put forth any effort to learn what's being presented at no cost to him?

Contrast this with a gentleman I know, an "ethnic minority" if it matters, a graduate of Kirkman High School, who gave me a pretty thorough lesson in the operation of hydraulic torque wrenches the first time we met... force vectors and all. Did he have an advantage coming up through the ranks in his career? Perhaps. But working where he does, having the responsibility he does, and the critical nature of his work, he wouldn't have climbed that ladder as he has without dedicating himself to improving his skills and education to expand his horizons after he got a foot in the door.

It's refreshing to see women having broken the barriers of sex, M or F not Y or N, in technical fields such as plant maintenance and systems engineering. I'm often reminded of a lady who's one sharp cookie when it comes to industrial instrumentation and controls because, you see, Soddy Daisians just aren't supposed to be smart, especially when they're pretty girls. Or Ms. Linda, all 5'3" and 100 pounds of cutiepie that she was, who began her career with a major telephone company over in North Carolina running a construction crew... after graduating from Duke University in three and a half years with a dual major, electrical engineering and biomedical engineering. A technician who's long gone now but worked on one of our field crews back then discovered real quick that her nickname should have been Ms. Frostie, and don't even try to lay a snow job on her.

Dedication, desire, persistence, setting a goal and working toward it is exemplified no better than by a kid The Gang and I picked up on the road a few weeks ago. We were headed to town to run some errands. He was walking up the hill. After running our errands, and a stop for their McDoubleCheeseBurgers, we started back home. That same kid was still on the road up the hill, albeit several hundred feet higher than when we first saw him, so I stopped. The Sparkster didn't try to eat him up, Sparky doesn't like men in general, so I offered a ride. He hopped in the back seat, Boo had claimed shotgun and wasn't giving his seat up for any stranger, and right off Ms. Sophie had to give him lip sugar. No screams of "Eeewww, I've been french kissed by a dog!" or pushing her away, so we struck up a conversation. He'd dropped out of school due to some family issues and was going up to work so he could earn the $55 fee to take his GED exam. He wants to be a welder, but he needs a GED or high school diploma to enroll in the program, and he wants to be a welder badly enough he was walking almost 25 miles with an elevation of about 1,400 feet from where he was to where he was going.

That kid's going to be a welder, and what ever else his heart desires. He'll make his own opportunities, his own "luck," if we consider that luck is nothing more than preparedness meeting opportunity, just as so many others who've decided it's their responsibility to work and learn and create their own opportunities have done.

Because they can.

But there are others who would demand that government and industry provide those opportunities, those jobs and education, that everyone but the beneficiaries accept responsibility for their comfort and well-being.

I'll also never forget the day in Mrs. Edwards' 5th grade English class that cute girl, dark hair with a pixie haircut that was in vogue at the time, blue eyes, dimples when she smiled, said "I can't" while we were working on some project. Mrs. Edwards asked if she was an American, then walked over to her chalkboard and wrote out the word Amer-I-Can, underlining I Can. A public school, too.

Because we can... make our own opportunities with hard work, but it takes more than 28 minutes and the effort to pick up an iPad that someone else bought for us.

Great hair, but I'd bet good money Bon Jovi and Sambora paint theirs... paying for it with money they earned by hard work and a desire to be all they can be.

Royce Burrage, Jr.



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