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Work Ethics 1

April 2, 2013

This is an excerpt from my second book, “Memory Harvest of a Sharecropper’s Son,” which is now available in Amazon Kindle format and in printed format. This story is about work ethics.

I learned work ethics from my father and grandfathers. Dad was sharecropping when I was born, but had a heart attack about the time I was three and left the farm. The rest of his life, I watched him hold as many as three jobs at a time to make a living. He had certain physical limitations on what he could do, but did many different things. He hammered into me that I should always give a day’s work for a day’s pay.

Even after Dad began preaching and pastoring small, rural churches, he still usually held down a second job to make ends meet. Most of the churches he pastored did not pay a living wage.

Many government workers only put in their time. They become part of a bureaucracy and do not have any incentive to produce. That is not all of them, but it is many of them.

In 1954, my grandfather retired from the post office at age 70 after 34 years of service. He began his career sorting mail, then working behind a window and for many years was Assistant Postmaster, which was an earned promotion. At that time, Postmaster was an appointed position.

The Postmaster and the local U.S. Representative in Congress tried to get Granddad to take an appointment as Postmaster for the last five years of his career. It would have given him more retirement. The Postmaster planned to step down to the Assistant Postmaster position and would be reappointed to Postmaster when granddad retired.

Granddad was extremely conscientious and refused to accept the appointment. He said that he did not want something that he had not earned. All of his promotions had been a result of merit. He worked hard all of his life. That was the work ethic and philosophy of my grandfather. If he could see the attitude of many postal workers today, Granddad would turn over in his grave. Maybe he has.

My wife’s family was much the same. When we married, Billie’s father was sharecropping in southwestern Oklahoma. My father-in-law never attended school because his father kept him and his brother home to work the farm. He hid them when t he census taker came around. My father-in-law could not read or write, but was a ‘smart’ man.

The landowner told him in 1956 that he was putting the land my father-in-law was farming into Soil Bank and my father-in-laws share would be about twice what he had made the year before and they could still live in the house. My father-in-law thought about it for a moment or so and said to the landowner, “But, what will I do?” He had a work ethic that meant he had to be working. He did not just want a hand out.

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