Character, not circumstances, makes the man – Booker T. Washington
This week I decided to end the year on a personal note. It’s about the young or not so young man who helps me keep the neighbour’s neglected plot of land clean, a few times a year. I can no longer afford to have the grass cut monthly or quarterly. So it’s typically overgrown. But that ought not to be my responsibility for I have no interest in it short of it being next to where I reside.
Happy, as he told me in conversation last week, came to Barbados by way of Guyana in 1992 as an 18-year-old boy, without much education, but a determination to succeed. He is ambitious and hard working, and succeed he has, even though he has not considered a university education as the pinnacle of success. But he harbours such ambitions for his 15-year-old daughter who wants to be a veterinarian in the future.
He proudly told me that on February 22, he will “celebrate” 26 years of living and working in this country and he readily admits that Barbados has been good to him. Since his arrival, he has built a four-bedroom house in an upper middle class neighbourhood; he pays his mortgage monthly; sends money to his relatives in Guyana; and saves to invest in another piece of land – not because he looks at land ownership as an investment to sell later, Happy is contented just working his land. He works for a gentleman in the countryside cutting heavily overgrown land and manicuring the property. Before or after work, Happy tends to his other job – helping people like myself and finding time to till the soil and to cultivate vegetables on a plot of land belonging to a neighbour who resides overseas who has given him permission to work the land and sell the produce to a supermarket.
Happy is not intimidated by hard work, indeed he welcomes it, because every dollar he earns brings him closer to achieving whatever short or long term goal that he has.
His philosophy is that “if you cannot save a cent from a dollar then you cannot save a dollar from ten dollars and so on”. That is how he has been able to accomplish so much. He is no CO Williams, no Ralph Bizzy Williams and he does not have to be. He drives a very old car and is usually in his work clothes. In fact, looking at him, no one would think that he enjoys the standard of living that he does. He is not ostentatious, except for his home. So he lives frugally and he ensures that for every dollar that he earns, he saves at least a cent and gives the church his monthly tithes. That is important to him.
Happy is a man that I admire. He works hard and he is generous to people he knows. Often, he would work for fellow church members, without so much as a glass of water for his hard work. He has experienced several major medical difficulties, including a brain infection which wiped out some of his cognitive ability for a time. But that never deterred him. In fact, he is always smiling.
He admits that he is tired, but he wants to secure the future of his daughter, not just by what material things that she will inherit from him, but he wants her to appreciate the value of hard work.
I admire him too for the obvious love and respect that he has for the two people in his life, his wife and his daughter. His eyes glow when he speaks about his wife and his love for his daughter is palpable. But he does not spoil her, he urges her to work hard, to be independent and to be kind to people.
It appears that this has taken root. For the young lady tills the soil with her father and reaps the financial reward of the patch that she takes cares for. She does not expect her dad to give her what most teenagers and young adults believe is their inherent right. They want it and they must have it! And unfortunately, today’s middle class parents, who are but one generation away from working class and poverty status, encourage this entitlement generation.
Far better than begging for money and for material things whilst liming around a shop drinking and being non-productive as so many males do in this country. Far better than sitting by the road begging pedestrians for a dollar.
I have been in this country for the past 28 years and for the last two decades I have experienced a particular female sitting on a street in Bridgetown begging for money. Truth is I do not get to Bridgetown frequently these days but she appears to be able bodied, yet she is content to beg.
But back to Happy. His life is testimony to the fact that hard work often pays off. And he never complains, at least when I am in conversation with him. But I am equally aware of the fact that hard work does not always get the results you desire. So I am reminded of a documentary on sugar workers in Trinidad and Tobago and an old man (over 70) gently explaining how he worked on a sugar plantation for over 60 years and was never able to buy a new pair of shoes. I cried! What else could I do when we take this for granted!
A happy New Year to all! See you next year God willing.