Sunday, February 02, 2014
When your heart gets restless, time to move along
When your heart gets weary, time to sing a song
But when a dream is calling you,
There's just one thing that you can do
Well, you gotta follow that dream wherever that dream may lead
You gotta follow your dream to keep that Ranger's Creed
Okay, so Fred Wise and Ben Weisman wrote about Elvis chasing pretty girls but a dream is still a dream. Right? The Lone Ranger's Creed states, in part, "God put the firewood there but that every man must gather and light it himself" and "a man should make the most of what equipment he has."
Last December, 2013, a bunch of greenies hopped aboard the Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy. Their goal was to go way down yonder past New Orleans, below Mexico City and Honolulu, beyond those South Pacific islands where the women barely wear any clothes, to the continent of Antarctica. Their stated mission was to investigate environmental changes due to global warming. They got stuck in the ice... ultimately, miles from open water... at what, in the southern hemisphere, is the summer solstice. One might imagine they made a few slight miscalculations. Ignoring the potential loss of life and property, one must also wonder the financial cost to others for their rescue.
Not too many weeks before that incident 11 year old Madison Root was tossed out of a park near her home in Portland, Oregon. The dastardly deed for which she was evicted? Selling mistletoe so she could help pay for braces on her teeth. She was told she could beg for money, but she couldn't sell mistletoe she'd collected and packaged by herself. Her story was picked up by the news media and 10 days later "Mistletoe Maddie" had thousands of orders and was paying 38 employees 9 bucks an hour, people who were until then unemployed, and had paid not only for her own braces but those of a less fortunate friend.
This past week another wide-eyed little cutiepie got busted by the revenuers, one Chloe Stirling who was baking cupcakes to earn money for a car when she turns 16. At 10 bucks a dozen, with small premiums for special requests, they're a bargain. One might also imagine her profits were decreased somewhat by the cupcakes she donated for charitable causes.
Both of these young ladies are doing what they should while chasing their dreams, gathering and lighting their own firewood while using the tools they have as effectively as possible.
Seeing kids like these two girls working to earn what they want, the operative word here being E-A-R-N, I'm often reminded of another kid. He was also 11 years old at the time, known in the hood as The Benj... a handle he'd earned when he was about three that some still call him today, almost 35 years later.
Anyway, he went to work with his dad one miserably cold, rainy Saturday morning. As they unlocked the door a wet, mangy looking stray dog came prancing across the parking lot toward them. The Benj asked to bring the dog in to play with him. Daddeo could see what was coming and didn't want anything to do with a critter but relented, hoping when they left so would the dog. Before all the screaming was done The Benj had laid on the big con, committing to care for and maintain his new dog including, but not limited to, feeding her, vet bills, having her spayed, buying all of her collars and leashes, shots, treats, the works. He decided he would start a cleaning service around the business park where his dad's shop was located and proceeded that day to drum up business. Small business owners frequently work at least Saturday, sometimes on Sunday too. Daddeo loaned him 20 bucks to buy his first batch of supplies, another 10 for a collar and leash.
In short order he'd saved enough to pay back his debt, have his dog spayed and all of her shots, vet bill paid, and she was as well cared for as any pet could ever be, especially one who hadn't known a real home previously. The Benj spent two to three days a week, depending upon his skateboarding schedule, working his business and had all the money he needed for most situations, even at half of what he earned... because that was the deal, at least half of everything he earned had to go into savings. If he needed to make a large purchase he could borrow from his savings, upon submission of a proposal to, including terms of repayment, and approval of the loan committee. The loan committee was comprised of two individuals, The Benj had one vote and Daddeo had two. Interest was determined in the beginning, set by The Benj and approved by the loan committee... he would repay these loans from his savings at 40% per month. He was tough on himself.
Along the way one of his cousins came to visit for a while. They only had one bicycle so Jason, de cuz, said not to worry and they proceeded to scrounge up discarded bicycles. Jason showed him how to use several discarded, broken bicycles to make at least one good one and from that day forward he never passed a discarded skateboard or bicycle without picking it up and taking it to his shop to strip for parts. Another side business. Every time someone needed a part The Benj would either show them how to fix theirs, sell them the used parts at a reasonable price, or barter for him to repair it himself. He had his own tools too.
But none of these extracurricular activities could be performed before his homework and personal chores were done.
The best part of all this was when he took what he was learning to Boy Scouts.
The Benj's Scout Troop performed at least one community service project every year. The first one he was involved with Daddeo got hauled into as well, having made the mistake of volunteering to help wherever his might be needed. So at their first meeting the boys who volunteered decided what their project was going to be, developed a rough design with a bill of materials and tools required, and were ready to go. Then came the question; ""How are you going to pay for this?" The Benj grinned. He knew what was coming next. One boy said "My mom will contribute (blah, blah)," another "My parents will too," and so it went with most of the boys piping up to volunteer their parents' checkbooks.
"No, no, no, no... whose project is this?" came the response from the adult guide. "Ours," said the boys. "Then who needs to pay for it?"
The Benj was asked to share some of his experiences and to lead a short brainstorming session about how to raise their funds. The next meeting they came back with additional ideas. The first was to solicit donations from businesses. That was a bust, and one of the boys decided he didn't have time any more. Next they decided to figure out ways to work for the money themselves, and The Benj threw out there were things he couldn't do with his cleaning service due to time and being a single operator. The following Saturday they were all over that business park like a herd of ants. They drummed up about four Saturdays worth of work, negotiated prices and payment, figured out tools and materials they'd need, and the following week were ready, if not quite so willing, to have at it.
They cleaned windows and carpets. As other business owners and managers saw them out working they were asked to do work for them too, especially when the ones they were already working for sang their praises. They scraped paint off the floor in one warehouse, hosed down parking areas, cleaned up oil spots in same, had water fights, broke down pallets, flattened cardboard boxes and took them to be recycled, then got to keep the money, stripped and waxed office floors, cleared some brush and flower beds for the landlord, cleaned the common parking area for him too, and had fun while they learned new skills.
Then came the day to buy materials. The building supply store manager happened by and asked what they were working on. They explained their project. The manager, one from whom they'd initially solicited a donation, decided to discount all of their materials... and donated some additional items he thought they'd need as well as some tools to simplify the job.
The end result was they learned new skills, that they could earn the money to do what they wanted fairly easily, people are more inclined to help when they're already working toward their goal, and that working can be fun. They earned the money to execute their project, had fun doing it, and had a few tools for the troop to work on future projects. The excess funds paid their summer camp fees. Every one of those boys went to summer camp, with some spending money, it didn't cost their parents a dime, and there was enough left over to contribute to the troop's general operating fund. As long as that plan was in place there was never a shortage of volunteers for service projects in that Scout troop... with each earning the right to puff out his chest and say "We did that," without having to grovel for handouts.
At Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., there's a gate serving as a memorial to two brothers who were significant contributors to the college almost 200 years ago. Albert Hopkins was a professor and his brother Mark served as president. The "Hopkins Gate" is inscribed with the following motto:
Climb High, Climb Far
Your Goal the Sky, Your Aim the Star
How often does a kid set out to work, to earn what's required to accomplish his or her goal, a dream, only to be told by adults and peers they can't do it, or some bureaucrat to do the same?
How many times do we see people, real people, walk off on their own to start a business without much more than a tool kit and a dream... only to be told by some government bureaucrat who's never built anything in their life "you can't do that" or "you didn't build that"?
I often wonder who's going to be a greater drain on our economy, our society... a kid who's working to earn his way while following a dream or someone living on government grants, money the rest of us earn so government can confiscate it.
It was -2 degrees on the porch here on Yonder Mountain last Tuesday, -3 on Wednesday. On 7 January it got down to -8 with a wind chill factor of -19... here in the sunny South, where we know it's summertime when we get hot water from both sides of the tap.
Just think, if not for global warming it would really get cold down around here.
Royce Burrage, Jr.