By Mark E. Smith
People keep asking me about the recent issues – actually, I don’t even know what to call them – at The Scooter Store, leaving a reported 1,800 people out of work on “furlough,” many in a region of the country where jobs are hard to come by.
As I’ve explained to a few, I don’t know any more about the situation than what’s been posted on news outlets. However, what I do know is that I feel deeply for the employees and their families. See, these are 1,800 hard-working Americans, doing jobs as phone operators, data processors, delivery drivers, and virtually every other honest position one can hold. They are moms and dads, some single parents, some working their way through school, most paying bills on Friday and going to church on Sunday. Indeed, for me, there’s not a story about The Scooter Store, but 1,800 stories, ones of how the rent will get paid, ones of keeping gas in the car, ones of, How do we survive as a family from here?
I truly don’t know precisely what the 1,800 families of The Scooter Store are going through, as I have a good-paying career and don’t need to worry about rent or gas these days. However, I come from a very humble background of being poor at times as a child – I remember being in food lines with my mom to get big boxes of government powdered milk and blocks of cheese – and it’s stuck with me my whole life, never wanting to go back to that. And, so, I can only imagine how scary this time is for the 1,800 families of The Scooter Store, including their children.
Beyond the fear of being broke and hungry, I also relate to the all-American work ethic that most of The Scooter Store employees personify. Folks are sometimes kind to note my talent based on the volume of my career, but it’s truly an allusion. Really, at the heart of what I do is simply an intense work ethic, where I keep my mouth shut, my head down, and do the best possible job I can in any given situation. And, I learned long ago to never say no to any type of work, no matter the task or amount – because that’s what it takes to survive. Nashville for a conference? Sure. L.A. for the Abilities Expo the next week? Of course. All of my other duties, and working on a book at the same time? Not a problem – I’ll do it all. I don’t care how heavy the work load, how tough the independent travel, how exhausting the schedule, I’m just grateful to have the work. And, I forever watch, listen, and learn as I go.
See, when you know where you come from – just poor – and you know that you can go back to that at any time, and the only line between then and now is hard work, you work really hard, like your life depends on it – because it does. Mine does.
Disability experience teaches us all a lot in that way, where often all we have to get us through is pure tenacity, and when we rely on that, it’s really all that we need. Talent and luck can get you so far, but just good ol’ back-breaking hard work is among the truest keys to not just surviving but thriving. And, when something doesn’t work out, you’re ready to employ Plan B, C, and D, doing whatever it takes.
My brother is presently a great example of a life fueled by tenacity and back-breaking work. He’s a master tile setter, living in a very expensive part of the country. In order to afford a home for his family, he lives three hours from the city where he works. He gets up at 2am, six days per week, drives three hours to work, sets tile all day, then drives three hours home – generally just to go to bed and get up and do it again. So, why does he do it? Well, he knows the value of hard work and keeping the lights on. We were in government food lines together, and he never wants to go back there, either. He couldn’t afford to give his wife and daughters the lifestyle he wished in the city, so he moved where they could afford, making remarkable personal sacrifices in the process. He’s no genius or extraordinary talent; rather, he’s just working really, really hard.
And, for the 1,800 employees of The Scooter Store, who worked really, really hard, and now find themselves wondering how to pay the rent and keep gas in the car, my sentiment is this: Let’s not allow these families to get lost in a news story about whatever becomes of The Scooter Store; rather, let us each remind ourselves where we come from, and how scary it would be to be out of work, maybe even waiting in a food line for government boxes of powdered milk and blocks of cheese. Most of all, let’s keep those 1,800 Scooter Store employees in our prayers.