Kenny and the American Way
Recently, I rediscovered the only anti-poverty program that really works.
A knock came to my front door. It was a small built, average height white guy in his late thirties, early forties dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt. "Excuse me sir, I need work. I have seven kids and a wife to feed." Kenny proceeded to tell me in his thick southern accent about his many skills; construction, lawn care, tile, mechanics and more. Due to downturns in the economy, Kenny was having great difficulty keeping steady employment.
As I am admittedly technically and mechanically challenged, I put Kenny to work. Upon discovering that I was a black man married to a white woman, Kenny looked surprised; not judgmental or disapproving, just surprised. Kenny did a meticulous job tiling a floor at our Arts Center. He tuned up my car and fixed my lawnmower. He poured the concrete for our patio; very professional, meticulously done. Kenny likes to listen to country music on his radio while he works. When Kenny was working on my patio, he asked if the music bothered me and offered to turn it off. I said, no problem, enjoy yourself.
When Kenny was working on our air conditioner, we chatted a bit. Through my typical probing questions, I learned that Kenny had a difficult childhood. His dad was an alcoholic. Kenny himself has also had problems with alcohol in the past. Kenny's wife is ill, suspected cancer. They have a combined family of seven kids from previous marriages. So, Kenny has a lot on his plate.
I am struck by this simple man's positive attitude, character and pride in everything he does. Kenny told me he has forgiven his dad and moved on. When hit with bad news about his wife's medical condition, Kenny's response blew me away. He said, "Sometimes "laufe" (life) challenges you and you just gotta deal with it." I thought, Wow!
Sadly, many in America today are infected with an entitlement mindset thinking they should reap the benefits of hard work by others. It was refreshing to meet Kenny, a man who does not believe anyone owes him anything and simply wants to work.
I've grown to have the utmost respect for Kenny. Rather than whining, he literally knocked on doors seeking work. He is a man of his word, does a great job and always goes the extra mile. He loves his kids and his wife. They are a happy family. My wife Mary and I are growing close to them. Though I do not require it, Kenny insists on addressing me as sir. Some would call Kenny a redneck, country music, southern drawl and many times shirtless. I call Kenny, a friend.
Lloyd Marcus, (black) Unhyphenated American. lloydmarcus.com