---Ralph Waldo Emerson
We recently moved into a new home that is part of a beautiful new development. We saw our land being cleared and then watched the house being built proverbial brick by brick. We would come every day and met most of the workmen who came together to deliver the finished product. As I watched them, I was reminded of my years in the classroom. I had noticed through those years that each group of students contained the achievers and the non-achievers, and it was attitude, not skill, that made the difference. The students who cared about the finished product that they would present always seemed to find a way to succeed, and were generally happy on the path that they took. Those that were interested in getting there quickly and without care for the finished product, were those who complained the loudest over the life they had been handed.
We would drive to our partially built home each evening and find chewed up chicken bones, empty coke cans and dirty napkins all over the place. There were dumpsters or trash receptacles every few feet throughout the development, but apparently our bathtub was much more tempting for chewed up apple cores and half eaten sandwiches. The disrespect that some of these people had for our environment was equaled only by the disrespect they had for the job.
I understand that mistakes are made, but when they realized that the hole that was cut for the electrical receptacle in my gorgeous granite counter top was placed in a position that was unreachable, why did they install it anyway. Or when the tile installer recognized that the wall behind the shower was visibly crooked, why did he tile over it without requesting it be straightened out? Why did the cable company workmen put every cable box in crooked, so the front of our homes looked like a demolition derby had been run there? Each of these things was corrected at the expense of the builder, but where was the pride of the workmen?
I will say that many of the workman took total pride in their work, and treated our home as though they were building their own. Our project manager found mistakes that we missed and wouldn't let us close on our home until all was fixed. The couple who laid our tile flooring meticulously measured so each grout line would be perfect. Our finished product makes us happy each day, but I wonder about the people that just didn't care.
If, as Emerson stated, we become who we decide to be, then did these students years ago, or the workmen who didn't care, decide one day that they would do inferior work throughout their lives? Did they map out a future strewn with poor-quality work and decide that the mark that they left in the world would be a chicken bone? I can't believe that, and so I think that there is a bit more to Emerson's description of one's future. I think it is the support we get, and the lessons we learn that help guide us to our destiny. The parents who teach us table manners and the value of a good day's work are the beginnings of our destiny.
I hope Betty DeVos comes to realize that it is also the teachers who guide us through the largest parts of our days during our most formative years and help us with our destinies, and I hope the teachers realize that it is their moral obligation to offer us more than just the fundamentals of learning. Some children have only their teachers to teach them the fundamentals of life. Hopefully, together we can teach the generations to come that they must decide to become the best that they can be!
Speaking of being the best you can be, I enjoyed reading the memoir of a woman who is doing just that. At eighty-six years of age, Betty Halbreich shows us that she can still do that in her memoir, I'll Drink to That: A Life in Style, with a Twist. She has spent the last forty years working as a personal shopper in Bergdorf Goodman, a job that she tailored for herself all those years ago. This tale of her life and the clients whom she transforms was quite interesting and well worth reading.
My second choice this week was not quite as enjoyable, but it told an important bit of history that we need to be aware of when remembering those who were instrumental in the holocaust. Tom Bower opens our eyes to Switzerland's contribution to the mayhem of one of the darkest parts of our history in his book, Nazi Gold: The Full Story of the Fifty-Year Swiss-Nazi Conspiracy to Steal Billions from Europe's Jews and Holocaust Survivors. While trying to give the appearance of neutrality, Switzerland abetted the Nazi's and appropriated much of the money stolen from the victims of the holocaust. Bower's research helped him write a powerful book that tells us that we can't always believe what is before our eyes.
As always complete reviews of both of these books follow this blog.