Updated: Oct 14, 2022
Over thirty years ago I was an intern working in an environmental laboratory at a package water treatment plant. Somehow after a year or so I found myself as the lead technician responsible for the daily regime of procedures that were mandated to prove compliance with the facility’s state pollution discharge permit. The program took high school students and gave us the chance to acquire useful stem skills. One day a young African American man, D.B. we shall call him for the sake of his anonymity, entered the program. It was my responsibility to train and mentor him. Within a few days, word came back to me that D.B. was an active member of a cult that was outspoken against white people. Basically, the group indoctrinates black youth with the prejudice that white people are all devils. D.B. showed both promise and enthusiasm at his tasks he was both willing and able to learn the job.
Since I was able to decide whether D.B. would get a fair shake based solely on his performance, notwithstanding defects in his character this was a true moral dilemma. Several years later I received a letter in the mail from D.B. addressed from the Bronx, NY. D.B. wanted to thank me for helping him to change his life. He said that the statement of experience he received from the program had enabled him to obtain a living wage position with a municipal plant.
There are undeniable trust issues between races that are deeply rooted in historical events. However, that singular event convinced me that whenever there is an opportunity I must step up and take a chance on people for whom generational wealth has eluded and who are too often found stuck in cycles of hopelessness and poverty. Of course, kids of all races fall into dysfunctional behavior. Whether it be nature, nurture, or more likely a combination of the two is of little importance.
What matters is that people can and do change.
Yesterday, at the company that I steward, a young man who needed to be picked up at his home and transported to work got into our van with his crew leader and immediately Tim was suspicious that this new hire was under the influence of drugs. Within moments of pulling off, the new employee blurted out “I’m stoned”. Tim then told the incorrigible man that he is big on safety and that being intoxicated while working on ladders is unacceptable at our company. This fresh hire became indignant flagrantly stating that:
“Weed is now legal and no one is going to tell me what I can and cannot do…”
Further, the impaired man instructed Tim to immediately turn the vehicle around expecting to be chauffeured back home. Tim did this, feeling that he would be safest at home.
Clearly “stinking thinking” and deviant behaviors are a phenomenon that crosses all racial boundaries. In fact, if the anecdotal evidence from three decades of working with human resources is to be trusted, there are a great number of people sunk in such depravity. This begs the question of how come so many people of all ages, genders, and cultural environments miss the boat which navigates to stability and productive citizenry. I have some ideas about this having also worked with Crossroads Prison Ministry. Last year in our profit-sharing open-book management company we had forty-five washouts! A common thread seen in each case was an apparent mistrust that hard work can lead to getting ahead in life. This flies in the face of our mission taken directly from the Word of God. This is as follows,
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NKJV
Trading goods and services have historically been a behavior modifier as nations and states try and keep the peace to continue to trade for the things that the division of labor and specialization bring. The bedrock of our economic system is what dictates a person’s economic value.
The place that someone “holds” in the workforce has always been dependent on his or her ability to add value to the lives of others.
That is not merely an opinion; it is a fact of life in an increasingly interdependent world. This division of labor and specialization more than any other factor is what is responsible for the relative prosperity that America and other post-industrial nations enjoy.
As of late, however, there is ample evidence of serious erosion in the commitment perpetuated by mob mentality and favoring unearned freedoms and untenable individuality.
These are misunderstood as virtues whilst, duty and community are neglected and suffer the consequence. Perhaps social media and the decadence of video games and television are responsible for this. Or maybe this decline in taking personal responsibility for one’s own actions is caused by a cultural preoccupation favoring isolation and entertainment over relationships and peer activities. Personally, I believe that the problem is rooted in a world fallen away from its creator in favor of humanistic sin. This rejection of the one true God and Christ on whom the Bible teaches on whom everything in the universe hangs, distorts mankind’s purpose for life.
Serving others for me is a vocational mission, which is not limited to the superficialities of “Customer Service” in a consumer-driven economy. For me Jesus, not the customer is king. This means giving our employees more than just a living wage. We are instructed to pave a path forward so that people may advance themselves and obtain financial and personal contentment. I truly believe that for America and the world to obtain a proper balance of economic value and personal responsibility, we must reverse the trend of an eroding middle class and adopt fair trade practices across the board. For this to happen we must shift our focus from short-term profitability to long-term value. Being an inductive soul, I have a vision of the big picture, but how obtaining what has been called utopic idealism is elusive and cannot be forced. It can only be facilitated starting with our own families and goals.
Happy Window Cleaning has adopted Open Book Management, a system constructed by Jack Stack which facilitates openness and participation for all stakeholders (workers) in financial matters. We strive to teach each person the financial and technical skills that permit growth, in Jack’s words “a stake in the outcome”. Happy Window Cleaning provides major medical, and retirement savings and rewards teammates with profit-sharing incentivization. All that is necessary for an individual to avail of our system is to take a pause from the incessant pull of self-service and to consider what is possible when we all work together as a team.
Truth be told, other businessmen have advised me that we are too generous and that workers simply will never appreciate all that we give them. In many cases this rings true, however, D.B. reminds me that kindness and charity do make a difference in the world. Focusing on the negativity of others can easily become an excuse for corruption, and a catalyst to self-absorption whereby we make excuses to enrich ourselves at the expense of those doing the manual labor for the company.
While we do not mandate that the individual business owners of our franchise follow in our paths insofar as profit sharing, we do encourage this. Therefore, we plan to continue and stay on course. We will continue to teach ownership, in a servant leader fashion, and I pray to God that He will bring us the people for whom such a structure will make all the difference in this convoluted and wonderful world.