Sunny and Ralph prepare to introduce top executives and spouses from several East coast manufacturers to a typical Texas Style Barbecue and Dance. The party favors were cowboy hats and bandanas (shown in background) for all.
I have no idea whether most wealthy people today resemble either the fictional, tight-fisted Ebenezer Scrooge or the modern tech billionaires who seem to want to change the world to fit their own political paradigm. But I do know that the two wealthy entrepreneurs who became part of Sunny Wilson’s life were, like her, beautiful people who loved life, who loved work, and who loved generosity.
Perhaps their early struggles to survive financially forever marked them with compassion for others. Perhaps it was because they became wealthy through their own creativity and hard work. Perhaps their pattern of life is still the norm for self-made people.
Or, perhaps the American culture was different then. After winningwars in both Europe and Japan, seemingly unbridled opportunities appeared everywhere as the United States embraced a hard-fought peace. Perhaps that optimism provided a more buoyant outlook for more people than the world had ever known before.
At any rate, Mary and Ralph left a legacy worthy of documentation, admiration, and emulation. Neither one ever suffered from depression, drunkenness, or drug addiction because they were having too much fun just living their lives, as in the picture above.
Mary approached her work and her business from the standpoint of her Christian beliefs. After being left holding the bag with two young children, she went into overdrive, learning to place her future in her own hands instead of depending on a husband. Her first solid precept became that there should be no difference in one’s attitudes and actions whether in the church pew or in the market place. She became a beloved Bible teacher at her home church as well as a wealthy woman.
Not only was she generous at church and when rewarding her demonstrators (the women who sold her decorative items), she also gave outright gifts of money to those in need. She frequently tried to cover a specific need for a temporary setback.For example, she had helped Sunny start her side business of selling decorative objects for the home by lending money to buy the samples, then personally tutoring her in the art of selling by the party plan that was popular at that time. Within a few months, Sunny’s side business far outstripped her salary.
Mary was gregarious, reaching out to others to recognize their genius, even when they believed themselves to be worthless. She was a superb listener, often winnowing the words to get down to the underlying problem, then assisting them find a way out.Since she worked primarily with women who were in a crisis of some sort, she frequently spent hours drilling into them: “You can if you think you can.”
Mary was a combination of psychotherapist, coach, and cheerleader. She helped her representatives learn to make money and thus increased her own bottom line every single year.
Ralph, on the other hand, appeared to most people in Temple to be the epitome of the hard boiled boss. He had little patience with any hint of laziness or lack of responsibility.
He had learned to work with plaster after leaving a small farm in Indiana and moving to California to “seek his fortune” as a young man. At that time in Los Angeles,Fox was putting up grand movie theaters decorated to the hilt with ornamental architectural features. So he headed there to learn how to make the molds for plaster in various forms, install the finished product, and see that it was painted appropriately. He began as an apprentice, worked his way up from journeyman to foreman because he taught himself (and then others) how to do it better and faster. After becoming the straw boss with one group, he left to start his own company.
He made a great deal of money decorating Fox Theaters, churches, and other buildings in flamboyant California. After almost three decades though, he got bored and sold his company to someone else. It was probably excellent timingbecause the elaborate movie theaters soon lost their popularity. Even churches began accepting modern architecture’s austerity.
Part of the agreement was that he would not open up a competing business in LA orstart any business within the state. So Ralph looked into Temple, Texas and decided to build a plant there producing the new melamine counter tops like Formica. Only his were called Wilson Art, with designs by his grown daughter.Soon he developed ways to get the finished goods to the buyer with a network of regional warehouses and a secret system that implemented deliveries in less time than any competitors could match. And his business flourished beyond all expectations.
He demanded a lot from anyone who worked at the plant in any position. If someone did not perform well, he was fired. When traveling to visit the sales reps or warehouse managers, he often took them and their spouse out to a fine dinner with lots of entertaining conversation. But, if he sensed a lack of honesty or a good work ethic,he would go into the office the next day and hand them severance pay because of what he learned during the previous evening.
If there were a crisis at any location, the needed employees were expected to work extra hours until the problem was solved, even if that meant a week of 12-hour days. And no one ever appeared to resent that dictum.
Like Mary, he was a listener, filing away in his memory names and details of family members that he had not even met and referring to them weeks later.This real concern was for both the shift workers and the suits in the front office.
His charity was primarily cash to help anyone in a bind meet an unexpected need. Few recipients ever asked for help, but instead were shocked when he privately slipped two to five hundred-dollar bills into their hands.
He also insisted on paying all employees well —— actually the wage rates were higher at his plant than anywhere else in the county. The unions tried every few years to win the representation of his workers. But every attempt failed because he already provided more benefits than their collective bargaining could promise. Many of the line workers stayed with his company their entire working careers.While all the foremen and the company officers were well regarded, no one ever captured hearts like Mr. Ralph did.
Mary and Ralph had no delusions of grandeur, i.e., changing the world or even amassing a fortune. Each, at one time had desperately needed money to pay their own basic expenses. Each one found a way to control the amount of money coming in – that is, they looked for and chose a form of entrepreneurship. Both admired generous people and both patterned their actions after their mentors.
Neither Mary nor Ralph gave a flip about whether their new friends at the club or the new members of their boards approved of them, their family, or the way they lived their lives. Each one just kept doing the next right thing whether it was paying for someone else’s kid go to college,quietly buying a new transmission for an employee’s old car, or improving the distribution process for products.
Toward the end of the party, when even the host and hostess relax because the Eastern Dudes had decided that Texas hospitality was far more entertaining and more gracious than they had ever imagined
O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea.
America is unique in the history of the world. It is a beautiful country filled with beautiful people, accomplishing beautiful feats. Although quite imperfect, there persists a thread of greatness in the U.S. that still attracts more would-be immigrants than it can possibly accept.
Unlike countries tied together by common blood lines, the United States is a different model tied together by the principles of natural law. Our raison d’êtreis established in the Declaration of Independence. Every subsequent law implements the fact that all men, whatever differences they may have in skin color, talents, ancestry, wealth, or intelligence are created equal. That is, each one is entitled to equality of respect and opportunity, but not the equality of circumstances.
During two-hundred and forty-two years since the founding, this type of government and environment have produced men and women of uncommon valor, talent, and generosity. While the country has, unfortunately,produced criminals in the government, in the churches, and in the general population, it has also unleashed an unbelievable amount of creativity that benefits everyone. The fields of technology and machinery alone have transformed the daily life of people in every corner of the world.
Five times in the twentieth century, American military forces offered their wealth, their weapons, their time, their talent, and their lives to save people in other countries from tyrants. Today, on July 4, 2018, we at One Eye and Half Sense, honor that particular beauty – the beauty of selflessness.
Arlington Cemetery – Procession to the burial site.
O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife, Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life! America! America! May God thy gold refine Till all success be nobleness, And ev’ry gain divine!
O Beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears! America! America! God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
The US Cemetery at Normandy, just above Omaha Beach is pictured above. As you walk around the cemetery with row upon row upon row of crosses and Stars of Davids, it finally begins to dawn on you the enormity of the sacrifice that Americans made to save Europe in World War II.
Having talked to two survivors of the D-Day invasion, I assure you that those 18 to 30 year-old young men were frightened by what they saw and what they endured. And yet, they bravely obeyed in spite of their fears, in spite of trembling hands, in spite of vomiting at the carnage surrounding them. And where they could not obey original orders because of snafus, they improvised. There is no way to thank even the ones who came home and lived long lives, much less the ones who perished defending freedom.
This is the original quote by General Clark at Anzio, Italy. Part of it was carved into a wall at the Normandy Beach Memorial.
“On Memorial Day we visited the American cemetery at Anzio and saw the curving rows of white crosses that spoke eloquently of the price that America and her Allies had paid for the liberation of Italy. “If ever proof were needed that we fought for a cause and not for conquest, it could be found in these cemeteries. Here was our only conquest: all we asked of Italy was enough of her soil in which to bury our gallant dead.” ” General Mark W. Clark
Another view of the Normandy Memorial Cemetery. American soldiers volunteered to die for their own people and for the oppressed people across the ocean whom they did not know and whose language and customs were foreign to them. They were idealistic young men who wanted to preserve freedom for others.
Over-view of the Normandy Cemetery showing the Memorial Building which houses artifacts and documents about the battle.
None of us are forgetful of other wars brave American soldiers have fought in since the decisive World War II: Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East. The United States has paid a high price with both blood and treasure in conflicts that some have deemed unnecessary. While God determines whose decisions were righteous and whose were selfish, the unique people of this unique nation remain loyal, diligent, and obedient even when sent on questionable missions because they “more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!”
“In a world of disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted. Only artistic excellence is incorruptible. Pleasure cannot be bargained down. And sometimes the meal is the only currency that is real.”
In light of the above quote, it is interesting to note that Plato beginsthe Republic with the premise that living a virtuous life, however difficult it may be at times, brings happiness to the individual and to the community. (An idea foreign or even repugnant to many who live in the 21st Century.) In fact, he equates what we might translate as justice, virtue, and/or excellence in English from one Greek term.
But over five thousand years later, in today’s United States, the usual understanding of“justice” is ever evolving toward the latest group to be awarded victim status and their demands for reparations of some sort as social justice. I doubt that such an idea ever occurred to Plato.
Today, virtue signaling carries much more weight than virtue lived out. Actually, the lived out version has almost been forgotten. If mentioned in secular society, “virtue” is regarded with the same the same red faced tittering usually saved for stories about one’s aging maiden aunt who never quite fit in with the real world of fun, games, and good times.Perhaps, elderly women drinking tea together in the afternoon might mention virtue without blushing, but both cool kids and adults“know for a fact” that it’s a poisonous term that’s totally incompatible with happiness.
Interestingly enough our word “virtue” came to the English speaking world from the Latin word, vir, for men.Today, however, most men would cringe at being called virtuous even though it originally referred to manly valor. Virile is probably the most common English word derived from vir, although virago is reserved for a woman who acts bravely – like a man. It used to refer to women like Judith or Joan of Arc, but now is associated with a difficult woman, full of anger, who adopts masculine actions.
In this century, many reserve the word “excellence” for either athletic or musical performances; it would never occur tomost writers, readers, or speakers to associate it with virtuous actions or decisions.
“Only to the extent that we’re virtuous, are we able
to thrive in our human relationships.”
*Dr. John Cuddeback
Fortunately, for us sceptics who silently seethe as we watch dishonest people thrive, grow rich, and become famous even though they proudly show no interest in living a virtuous life, **Platoalso thoroughly defends his premise in later chapters.He does so, not only on the personal level, but on the level of the city-state. Thus, the great effort required to live virtuously benefits both the person and society as a whole. In fact, Plato posits that not only does living a life of virtue bringhappiness; it is happiness.
One after another Plato records the objections and examples from those ancient Greeks who questioned his premise. Their challenges resemble similar arguments that come to our minds as we read Plato. The conversations are presented as a debate, not a series of***ad hominem attacks. Plato is both thorough and eloquent as he elaborates and explains his ideas.
My favorite part is where he refutes those who think that if they are clever enough to disguise their self serving ways in order to have the reputation for being virtuous while still lying, cheating, and stealing, can find the same level of happiness as the man who actually does act justly. It almost sounds like Plato had been watching the shenanigans of some of the current denizens of our nation’s capital.
Plato ices his cake with his explanation that not only does the self-serving man not enjoy true happiness, even his supposed pleasure of living out wrong desires does not provide the satisfaction he seeks. It’s easy to see his point if one has ever watched a friend or family member descend from pursuing the escape of pain to addiction to the depths of despair and loss that often end in suicide. Or, if one observes the beautiful desire for sexual fulfillment being used selfishly until it degrades the whole culture.As time goes by, practices that were once perversions become accepted. Then applauded. And finally defended legally to the extent that those who abstain must keep their beliefs private to avoid litigation, fines, and possible imprisonment. Meanwhile, the perpetrators walk around still somewhat dissatisfied and disappointed.
Frankly his book inspired me more than many lectures and homilies about ethicial behavior from Christian or Jewish leaders. These two Greekswho lived and wrote centuries before the coming of Christ figured out logically the practical aspects of living happily even without the Jewish and Christian concepts and books that are generally considered inspired. I am amazed.
When asked how he values justice in Book II, Socrates replies:
I myself put it among the finest good,
as something to be valued
by anyone who is going to be blessed with happiness,
both because of itself and because of what comes from it.
* Dr. John Cuddeback is a Professor of Philosophy at Christendom College and author of True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness. Some of theseideas came from two of his lectures: Plato’s Republic and The Discovery of Virtue.
**Plato wrote the book, but most of the dialogue and ideas come directly from Socrates, his mentor. So one could easily attribute this work to either philosopher since Socrates did not leave any written record.
***”When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.” Socrates
When Sunny succumbed to hepatitis, the Dallas School System allowed teachers one day of sick leave for every month of teaching. Most employees found it quite generous as they often accumulated six to nine days of sick leave every year which could be changed into money at the end of their employment.
For Sunny, the four days of earned leave were used up before she even entered the hospital. So she found herself with absolutely no income for living expenses, much less the quickly mounting medical bills. All of this when she had just purchased a house and a car on credit, and was just starting a savings account for Hard Times.
But Hard Times knocked her down before she was ready and she was too sick to fight back. The “easy living” the family had expected after graduation evaporated even while new debts increased her needs. 1954 was years before the Federal and State Governments had crafted their “poverty solutions” for families in a financial bind. Fear and despair almost eradicated all hope.
But God was in the picture. He just used other people’s hands and pocketbooks to provide for widows and orphans:
Her mother left her own home and closed down her own affairs to move to Dallas to help care for Sunny and her grandchildren.
Her sister saved enough out of her family’s expenses to send three checks during the months of illness and recovery.
A Sunday school class at her new church arranged for one of the members to come every Monday and Thursday with a meal prepared for the whole family and a bag full of additional groceries.
A group of friends from New Mexico “passed the hat” around and collected several hundred dollars to help with expenses. Then two couples drove to Dallas to deliver it in person. While visiting, the men also took care of several honey-do type repairs that needed attention. Then they drove the thirteen-hour-one-way trip back to Lea County.
The teacher of the younger son’s Sunday school class asked if he could take him out for a movie one Saturday. When they returned home, the son wore new shoes and carried a bag with a new shirt, a new pair of trousers, and three new pairs of socks. Of course, what excited him the most was the movie he had gotten to see and attention from an adult male.
All the neighbors on the street made sure the sixteen-year-old girl had all the babysitting jobs she could possibly handle. Most of those earnings bought gas for their car, which at that time was about twenty-five cents a gallon.
A woman in the church provided the daughter with hand-me-downs that were more expensive and better quality than any clothes she had previously worn.
New Mexico’s senior senator had earlier appointed the older son as a page to the US Senate. So he was living in a home with other pages at a nominal fee, going to a private school at no cost, and earning a small salary, not to mention the extraordinary experiences at the US Senate. While still in high school, he managed to send a little bit of money home every month. (By the way, Sunny’s in-laws had helped Senator Chaves with free room and board when he first ran for office decades earlier and this was his generous re-payment for their hospitality.)
Probably there were many other gifts and extensions of kindness that I am not aware of. But at least this helps people understand a real-life example of providing for the needy in a way that builds self esteem and bonds of friendship in both giver and receiver. Without the Byzantine rules, restrictions or admonitions of our current welfare system, each gift encouraged the family members to use it wisely, living up to all opportunities that became available. While those were difficult times, each one grew emotionally and spiritually because of the people who helped them, in effect putting their money where their mouths were and saying, “I believe in you.” And, no doubt, the givers were also rewarded for their generosity.
It was so much more compassionate and efficient than our current system that fosters a permanent underclass of third and fourth generation welfare recipients. These people have become people who are poor, not just currently broke, because they have neither incentive nor belief they can honestly do any better. What a loss for the whole country!