A Short (Good) Lesson in American Capitalism

Who are you teaching? And, how is your teaching benefiting our community?
Let me tell you a story to illustrate what I mean.

 

It was at the end of the day, 8:30 pm. I knocked on 100 doors that day near the Ashland High School. This was a couple of weeks ago, when I conducted the one week Dollar Campaign for the Jackson County Fuel Committee (JCFC). A local business woman named, Necia Zuck, donated $50 and challenged me to find 50 persons to match her donation at $1.
I am a community organizer, so I met that challenge. I don’t think I left the three square blocks that I live in, around Lincoln. The campaign generated $109 and a sense of familiarity within me concerning my immediate surroundings which did not exist before the campaign.
In an apartment complex on Garfield, right behind the park, I met three young men sharing an upstairs space. The are white “migrant” workers quashing the forest fires. By young, I mean, college-age.
I saw sparks of intelligence in them when I knocked on their door earlier. These boys were big. They told me they were not from Ashland and were spending the summer following the fires.
There is something magnetic about those willing to leave everything they know to go on an adventure and learn something. So, sitting on their porch, I asked the 18 year old what he planned to do with his firefighting experience. Was he going to become an arborist?
18 year old (standing): I don’t know what that means?
Me: Tree doctor.
18 year old: Oh.
(Friend steps onto the porch from the apartment and sits down in the only other available seat. There is now no more room on the porch.)
Me: So, what do you want to do? Do you know, yet?
18 year old: Yes. I want to be an EMT. I am here making money for school.
Me: Wow. Are you going to be an EMT here in Ashland?
18 year old: No, I am going back home. (I forget where he said he was from.)
Me: How many people live there?
18 year old: 9000. (He laughs after admitting this and blushes like he is embarrassed to be from a small town.)
Me: You can get a job as an EMT in a town of 9000 people?
18 year old: YES! $15 per hour.
Me: (Giggling) You said that with enthusiasm.
18 year old: That’s good money. (His eyes are aglow with potential and possibility.)
Me: What is?
18 year old: $15 per hour.
Me: Can I pimp you? (This comment inspired laughter from his friends.) I mean, let me see if I get this straight. You want to be an EMT, right?
18 year old: Yes. (A look of confuse played across his face.)
Me: EMTs resuscitate people from the dead! Right?
18 year old: Basically.
Me: That’s one heaven of a service. Grandpa is having a heartache, lying there on the floor, unresponsive; you come in and bring him back. I don’t think just anybody can do that kind of work. And, you are going to just put that on the market at $15 per hour. Here’s want I am going to do. You take my name and number. Call me when you graduate. I will only charge you 35% to go door to door in your town of 9000 persons and find 100 of them sons and daughters of grandmothers and grandfathers willing to pay you $300 per month to keep you on retainer. I think you can get to any house in that 9000 person town faster than the ambulance. I would treat you like insurance.
His friends turned to him. I watched as understanding entered his mind and it expanded.
Me: You don’t have to treat yourself like an employee. You can treat yourself like a business or corporation and access this American economy.
18 year old: What’s your name?
“My name is Opportunity. I live here with you in America. I am all around if you choose to look for me.”
Who are you choosing to teach? And, how is your teaching benefiting our community?
Words by Kokayi Nosakhere, who chooses to spend the majority of his time in search of magnificent minds. If you are one of them, please choose to reach out at royalstar907@gmail.com

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