I have attended more than a few business meetings or convention gatherings when someone whose face is etched with the rigors of life and the weather of years of living, will stand and ask, “Can I take a moment (point) of personal privilege to say a few words?” Because of the individuals familiar face, the privilege is granted. Well, in this blog I would like to ask if is ok if I take a moment of personal privilege to say a few words.
With another birthday about to roll around (March 17), just wanted to verbalize some thoughts that have been swirling in my mind. Bear with me. When I listen to all the pundits and politicians who peddle socialism, they pitch it as the magic cure-all, the panacea for which we have all been longing. Socialistic ideas are disguised in appealing and convincing sounding phrases like, “it is your right to have an equal slice of the pie,” “we are going to take from those who don’t pay their fair share and give you part of it,” “the American Dream is your right without you having to shed blood, sweat and tears to achieve it,” “the reason you don’t have is not your fault but the result of someone else;” and the nice sounding phrases go on and on. Like the gentle rain, all the good “things” we have a “right to” will fall freely and deservingly from the sky.
As the calendar is about to flip over to my 68th year, and as I journey in my mind over the many twists and turns the road of life has taken me down, I must say I don’t remember ever hearing any words like that growing up. Matter of fact I heard, “You can have it, but you must earn it;” “don’t expect handouts, you want it earn it by the sweat of your brow;” “if you can’t afford it you don’t buy it,” “if you want something, save for it or do without;” “there are no free rides in life;” “don’t blame others for your lack of hard work and mistakes;” and “the skies the limit if you are willing to sacrifice for it.” And that is the way I was taught it was, there was no alternate road to take.
My first car was bought with money saved from priming tobacco and helping gather and stack hay bales during the summer. I went to college by working hard to achieve a track scholarship and, as well, working at a brick mill during the summer (and I found bricks weighed more than tobacco leaves!!). My working in the hot summer sun of North Carolina and the year-around track training I did in high school, taught me commitment, discipline and stick-to-it-ness. With the Good Lord’s help and dilgent work, I graduated from college (1974) with a degree in religion and philosophy, debt free.
Entering the Gospel ministry, the first church I ever pastored I made $185 a month!!! When I departed from the church almost 6 years later, I was making a whopping $350 a month! When I got married my wife and I for many years lived from hand to mouth, often doing without those things that people today say is a “right” so we would have food on the table and pay our essential bills. Again, I was taught if you can’t afford it you don’t buy it. However, my parents also taught me, no matter how little money you have, try to save a nickel and dime here and there for the future. After over forty years it is surprising how those nickels and dimes add up.
Later, engaging in post-graduate studies, I juggled a family, a church and rigorous studies. I sacrificed and worked hard and eventually achieved multiple post-graduate degrees. I never expected anyone to give me anything, but just assumed you had to study hard, burn the midnight oil and sacrifice to earn them. Though not in the Bible as some mistakenly think, I was raised on the philosophy of Aesop, the ancient Greek, who wrote, “No good e’er comes of leisure purposeless; And heaven ne’er helps the men who will not act.” We know it better as, “God helps those who help themselves.”
As a minister I believe in helping people and have dedicated and committed my life to help and invest in others, which has brought me great joy and I trust in turn has brought joy and help to others. But in helping others, I have also sought to teach people to be responsible, good things happen to those who make good choices and work hard, and discipline is the key to seeing doors of opportunities open. I have always believed it is better to teach a person to fish than to just give them the fish. Now if one can’t help themselves that is a different conversation. I have sought through the years to extend a helping hand to those in need and who require a boost, and help point them in the direction that with the Lord’s help and the willingness to work and sacrifice, one can accomplish much in life that when looking back will leave one surprised.
The Lord has blessed me richly through the years, more than I could have ever imagined and certainly don’t deserve. While I have prayed at every turn of the road, I have sought to work hard along the way. Prayer and hard work cannot be divorced from one another (read the book of Nehemiah).
So, the reason I do not and can never support or embrace socialism is because of the path I thankfully was taught to take….a path that has been filled with highs and lows, successes and failures, good and bad, sadness and gladness, joy and sorrow, regrets and rewards, but because of the ups and downs has resulted in a path filled with abundant blessings that escapes my comprehension. Those willing to chase goals and willing to work hard to achieve them will find the greatest reward is found in the pursuit of those goals. Chasing goals and working for them bestows rewards money can not buy or socialism can not possibly ever give: self-respect, a clear conscience, integrity, incentive, and dignity.
Thank you for granting me this moment of personal privilege.