Do we Americans still have what it takes?

Friday morning I encouraged my international students to meet people this weekend. It’s nice and warm here in southwest Virginia and spring is finally here.  So it’s a good time for them to meet the friendly locals and practice their English.

So when the stranger in the coffee shop started chatting with me on Friday night, who I was I to shoosh him away.  I thought to myself that I would be a poor role model to my students if I did that.

I talked with Mike for hours, right up to closing time.  He was my age exactly, and we both had wives and kids.  Mike and I seemed to mesh and he was particularly talkative. So we just kept yapping.

Mike and I discussed a myriad of topics, but one I will remember is his fond memories of his father.  He loved his Dad.  When he was nine years old, his father gave him a dollar and asked him if he could make ten more with it.  Mike bought some plastic bags with the dollar, borrowed a rake and gave his Dad the ten dollars he had made raking and bagging neighbors’ leaves.

Mike said that his father told him that he had zeroed in the principle of how to make money.  His Dad asked him how many zeroes there were in a million, and once he figured that out, his father told him that the same principle which he applied to make ten dollars applied in making a milion.

Mike said he has spent his life wondering why  he responded to his father’s challenge when others may not have.  This led to some good talk about motivation. 

Mike told me he knew of someone of his father’s age, who when a boy, lived in a poor family in southern California.  The boy’s mother was a widow.  His mother one day gave him a gun and told him to go out and kill their dinner.  The boy did so.

The young man in fact became quite good at hunting and providing for his family.  Mike said that he himself was a hunter, but he used the word as a euphemism for a person who goes after things. Mike is a pursuer.

I told Mike that my own father’s family was so poor that they couldn’t afford paper for him to take to school.  My father told me that the teacher was quite mad at him because he wouldn’t take notes.  My father still got good grades. He told me he memorized everything.

The people of Mike and my father’s generation were admirable in that they were survivors.  When times got tough they went after it.  They didn’t let hard times stand in the way of success.

In our discussion we wondered if the youth of today have the same mettle our parents did.  Mike said that affluence had ruined America to some degree.  Today’s generation, and that of Mike and mine for that matter, have a lot of issues.  One of them is addiction to things like video games. 

Mike mentioned on fellow young man whom he knew with the problem.  He walked in on him one night and he was playing some war game set in Vietnam on the screen. In the meantime, his beautiful Asian girlfriend was sitting there by herself while he played.  Mike just couldn’t understand how the young fellow could play such a game in her presence and ignore her on top of that.

Will our kids work as hard as our parents did if times get hard?  Will the folks of my own generation do so?

We may need to if the media is to believed.  The spoutings of politicians aside, how Americans can continue their wealthy lifestyle under the mountain of debt they have incurred is beyond me. 

We’ll see if we have what it takes.

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