(Apologies to Douglas Wilson for stealing his featured image. My lame excuse is that I laugh every time I think of it.) Okay, let’s get this out of the way. I am white–melanin-challenged, Caucasian–privileged to be born in the USA, privileged to have been exposed to and embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ, privileged to have the attitude of making myself indispensable in little ways as an antidote to whining. My heros are Booker T. Washington and, in the Bible, Joseph and Daniel, my anti-heroes are whiners. I have no sympathy for those who live by complaint–no matter their circumstances–as a substitute for finding tiny, incremental ways to better their circumstances and those around them. It really is “all about the attitude.” See Genesis 37:1-36 and Genesis 39:1-23 for a lesson in attitude!
Then there’s Mr. Washington: Booker and John were sent to work alongside their stepfather packing salt into barrels. Nine-year-old Booker despised the work, but found one benefit of the job: he learned to recognize his numbers by taking note of those written on the sides of the salt barrels.
Like many former slaves during the post-Civil War era, Booker longed to learn how to read and write. He was thrilled when his mother gave him a spelling book and soon taught himself the alphabet. When a black school opened in a nearby community, Booker begged to go, but his stepfather refused, insisting that the family needed the money he brought in from the salt packing. Booker eventually found a way to attend school at night. When Booker was ten years old, his stepfather took him out of school and sent him to work in the nearby coal mines. Booker had been working there for nearly two years when an opportunity came along that would change his life for the better.
In 1868, 12-year-old Booker T. Washington found a job as a houseboy in the home of the wealthiest couple in Malden, General Lewis Ruffner, and his wife, Viola. Mrs. Ruffner was known for her high standards and strict manner. Washington, responsible for cleaning the house and other chores, worked hard to please his new employer. Mrs. Ruffner, a former teacher, recognized in Washington a sense of purpose and a commitment to improving himself. She allowed him to attend school for an hour a day.
Determined to continue his education, 16-year-old Washington left the Ruffner household in 1872 to attend Hampton Institute, a school for blacks in Virginia. After a journey of over 300 miles — traveled by train, stagecoach, and on foot — Washington arrived at Hampton Institute in October 1872. Miss Mackie, the principal at Hampton, was not entirely convinced that the young country boy deserved a place at her school. She asked Washington to clean and sweep a recitation room for her; he did the job so thoroughly that Miss Mackie pronounced him fit for admission. The lines in bold highlight his attitude within his circumstances.
Perhaps the best known example in our modern world of terrible circumstances, where decades of whining and billions in “aid” have only made things worse, is the Palestinians in Gaza. I already wrote a post about that. gaza The bottom line to whiners of the world is this: IF YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES STINK AND YOU THINK YOU HAVE NO POWER, YOU STILL HAVE THE POWER TO SERVE WELL AND LIFT YOURSELF AND OTHERS A LITTLE. EVEN A LITTLE LEADS UPWARD; IF YOUR PATH HAS BEEN DOWNWARD, YOU CAN STILL BE A JOSEPH OR A BOOKER…EVEN A LITTLE.