Are You a Victim?

If you listen to politicians from both major political parties these days, we're all victims. They say that the system is rigged and the deck is stacked against us. They tell us that we don't stand a chance of getting ahead in life or being truly successful unless (of course) we vote for them.

Do you really believe that as a society, we're all victims? Can politicians really help us to be successful? If they could why haven't they done so already? And which political party is the one to do it for us? The Democrats have had the White House for the past eight years and yet we're still hearing that we need to elect [insert politician's name here] to fix things. Just before this administration we had a Republican for eight years. Why didn't he fix things? Regardless of the political party being represented in the White House, they convince us that they'll clean up the mess the last guy created.

One aspect of all this that has remained constant, however, is you. Only you can decide if you're in fact a victim. Only you can decide if you're going to put your faith in a politician or in yourself. I, for one, decided long ago to take control of my own destiny and change my lot in life.

You see, when I was born my family lived in a government housing project. We were as dependent on the government as you can be, counting on it for the roof over our heads and the food on our table. We were on welfare and before there were food stamps we got our food from a surplus food warehouse.

Was I a victim? As a kid it certainly felt like I was. After all, what could I do about the circumstances I was born into? Could my parents have done something to change our circumstances? My father was a disabled alcoholic with an addiction to prescription drugs, and my mother had to deal with seven kids and an abusive husband; neither of them had attended school past the eighth grade.

As a kid I definitely saw that there were people who had more than we did. Right across the street from the projects were houses that people actually owned. Besides their houses these people also had cars and their kids had bikes. Another thing they had, that my family didn't have, were jobs.

We could have been content to remain in the projects and have the government pay our bills, but that was a life of survival. It wasn't a way to get more out of life, or to have that house, car, and bikes. For that we had to depend on ourselves. We were going to have to work for the things we needed and wanted. For me it started very simply. One day a truckload of bushels of tomatoes pulled into the neighborhood and a guy got out and started selling tomatoes for 25 cents per bag. When people stopped buying he drove away but returned a few days later to repeat the process.

Even as a kid I knew he could sell more tomatoes if he went to his customers instead of waiting for them to come to him. So I talked to him about my idea and he agreed to let me go door to door and sell bags of tomatoes. He paid me five cents a bag and at the end of the first day I sold ten bags and earned fifty cents. This was enough to go to the movies and buy plenty pf penny candies. I had tasted the good life and I wanted more.

As I grew up, I had plenty of jobs. Before I was old enough to get hired by a real company I sold tomatoes, shoveled snow, helped people home with their groceries, and mowed lawns. When I was sixteen I got a job at the local Burger Chef as a clean-up boy making sixty-five cents an hour.

As I got older I knew that while minimum wage jobs would certainly give me enough money for candy and going to the movies, they certainly wouldn't pay me enough to buy a car and rent my own apartment someday. While like most people I hoped the government would raise the minimum wage, I knew it was the indeed the minimum wage and not the maximum wage one could earn.

From that point on, every job I took I tried to find out what it would take to move up in the company. I wanted to know what it would take to get a raise or a promotion. I never cared where I started in the company. My attitude was to get in the door and then do whatever I could to impress my bosses.

I only had the job at Burger Chef for a short time before I found a job digging ditches on a construction site. It was very hard work but it paid $2.25 per hour. I thought that was a ton of money in the early seventies. And when I was eighteen I returned to that Burger Chef as an assistant manager and a year later I was running the place.

As I look back these many years later, I'm appreciative for the hand up the government gave my family and I do believe the government should provide that safety net when things get desperate, but except for in truly exceptional cases I think government assistance should be a temporary thing. If you truly want the good things in life there really is only one person you can count on to achieve them, and that is you.

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