In a previous post I mentioned I was reading Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington. Again I am compelled to share the admiration I have in this man’s strength and character. Booker helped start Tuskegee School from the ground up, in the south. The school had constant struggles with lack of resources and no money. Despite these huge constraints Booker taught the students industrial skills alongside of their book studies. When faced with a problem, no brickyard in town, Booker decided to build a brickyard and teach students to make bricks. When the students at the school needed a dining room and kitchen, Booker handed students shovels to dig a basement room to function as a kitchen and dining room. All but four buildings on the school property were built by students. Not only did they learn to appreciate the work of their handiwork, but they urged other students to take care of the building by not marking them up with pencil marks and knife carvings.
Hard work brings appreciation and pride. Struggles prolonged by failures, can strengthen character, if through determination the struggles are overcome. By taking away people’s struggles, we can do them a disservice, we can hamper the growth of their character. My family was not well off. We received presents at Christmas, but I tried to never ask for presents growing up, because I knew my parents could not afford them. I remember hushing my younger sister, when she would point at something she wanted in the store. I wanted a skip-it as a girl so bad, I knew that since it was summer I wouldn’t get one, so I made my own with a plant pot and a rope. We all have stories within our lives that we struggled with, but we overcome them and if we let them, our struggles make us stronger and we can appreciate what we have earned and learned through hard work.
Booker knew that struggles should not be discounted. Looking back at the school, years later he states, “As I look back now over that part of our struggle, I am glad that we had it. I am glad that we endured all those discomforts and inconveniences. I am glad that our students had to dig out the place for their kitchen and dining room. I am glad that our first boarding-place was in that dismal, ill-lighted, and damp basement. Had we started in a fine, attractive, convenient room, I fear we would have “lost our heads” and become “stuck up.” It means a great deal, I think, to start off on a foundation which one has made for one’s self.” “When our old students return to Tuskegee now, as they often do, and go into our large, beautiful, well-ventilated, and well-lighted dining room, and see tempting, well-cooked food-largely grown by the students themselves- and see tables, neat tablecloths and napkins, and vases of flowers upon the tables, and hear singing birds, and note that each meal is served exactly upon the minute, with no disorder, and with almost no complaint coming from the hundreds that now fill our dining room, they too, often say to me that they are glad that we started as we did, and built ourselves up year by year, by a slow and natural process of growth” Thank you Booker T. Washington for being a humble honest man, willing to do what most would say was impossible!