RESPONSIBILITY

Too many students fail to complete assigned work. Heck, some of them don’t even take notes on information given either orally or written, even though they receive a grade for doing so. It’s enough to make any teacher’s blood boil. The bottom line is not enough young people are being held accountable for their actions or inactions. The key word is “responsibility.” I learned this quality early in life, and it’s stuck with me, for the most part, throughout the years. The lessons were usually hard ones, but they impressed upon me the importance of the personal characteristic.
On Saturdays when my brothers and I were young, Mother required us to clean the house. Each of us had rooms that we were to take care of. The work included vacuuming, dusting, and scrubbing.
We began the day with a big breakfast. Mother made pancakes or waffles and bacon. Afterwards, we waddled back to the television set to watch cartoons or, as we grew older, “American Bandstand.” Bellies full of carbs and sugar made us sleepy and lazy. That lasted for only so long.
Mother would call through the house for us to get busy cleaning. It wasn’t as if she were sitting around; a full list of jobs awaited her as well. We boys yelled back, “OK,” but our acknowledgements weren’t followed by any movements.
Before long, my dear mother lost patience with us. She would come to the den, stick out a crooked index finger, and warn us that beginning the cleaning would be in our best interest. The term “or else” was enough to send three boys scurrying.
On one occasion, we ignored Mother’s request so long that she chucked a container of Vaseline from one end of the hallway to the door that led to the basement. Realizing how much that object would have hurt if it had made contact, we boys jumped to attention and got busy.
The summer before my senior year, I was involved in an auto accident. A car nearly ran me into a ditch, so I decided to chase him. I pulled into a driveway, looked both ways, and pulled out into the road. A sheriff’s deputy was chasing the car, but he had no lights
or siren on. He hit the back fender of the car and found himself in the same ditch I’d nearly been run into. I took responsibility for the accident, but the sheriff’s investigation determined that the officer was, instead, at fault. I shouldn’t have tried to chase down the other car in the first place.
As teens, Jim and I needed to work to earn spending money and savings. Our first jobs were at the Copper Kettle. There we worked serving curb-side orders. The work wasn’t too difficult, but the
hours were brutal. We worked until 11:00 p.m. and then cleaned the curb and serving area until midnight. Our next job was with the City of Knoxville. A group of teenaged boys were hired to cut weeds on rights-of-ways, clean alleys, and pick up garbage. Other jobs included working at Burger King and at the UT farms.
At the end of the summers, we had saved enough money to use for activities and other things throughout the year. We gained a sense of pride from working; neither of us ever wanted to ask Mother for money since she had so very little of it to spare. To this day, Jim and I stay busy at some kind of work, and we still believe in working hard for the money that we earn.
I hope that the youth of today learn the same kind of responsibility. No, my brother and I aren’t special. Many of our friends learned the meaning of responsibility during those early years. We appreciate the lessons. Amy and I instilled the same quality in our children, and they have proven to be responsible adults. That statement would make any parent proud.



HOW DO THEY AFFORD THAT?

Money—it’s something that most of us are short on. It is the means by which we can gain things that we need and want. What amazes me is how prices of things have gone up so much over the years. I often wonder how folks manage to pay for the items they buy.
During my sophomore year in college, the old ’54 Chevy gave up the ghost and died in the dorm
parking lot. My older brother talked to my mother to convince her to borrow money to buy me a car. I selected a Volkswagen Beetle. It was brand-spanking new. The cost for that vehicle was $2600. Excited to own a new car but embarrassed that I had to ask my mother to purchase it, I drove that Bug off the lot.
Today, the cheapest model of the VW Beetle averages $19,995. That equates to an increase in price of almost 8 times what the car cost back then. Yeah, I get that these are different times and that cars are much nicer than they were; however, the fact remains that a Beetle is still a Beetle. I watch men who are mad with desire for trucks plunk down $40-50,000 to own them. They finance the things for 7 years, which is much longer than the life of most heavily used vehicles.
Amy and I bought a house after we’d been married a couple of years. It was one built by the vocational building trades class at Doyle High School. We bid $32,000 for a house that had a living room, kitchen and eating area, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a half-basement.
A couple of years later, we built a house in Ball Camp. It had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large living room and kitchen, eating area, garage, deck, and screened porch on a one-acre lot. We finagled our finances to afford this $36,000 house. The $241.00 a month payment came with 9% interest. It also included escrow for mortgage insurance and taxes. We tightened our belts and did without some things to be able to afford this house. In fact, we still live there, although the place has undergone two additions and renovations over the years.
At the present time, the median listing price for a house in Knoxville is $185,000, and the price per square foot for construction is $114. That means for a 2400 square foot house, the size of my residence, a person would pay $266,400. For a 30-year loan with a 3.92% fixed rate, the payment for the house would be $777.31.  That doesn’t include taxes and mortgage insurance.  The payments
alone equal $9400 a year, only $600 more than I made each year when we built our home.
Surprisingly, the cost for renting an apartment isn’t much better these days. Amy and I rented a three-bedroom house for $125 a month before building our house. The average rent in Knoxville in 2015 was $723. How in the world do families find enough money to pay for a place to live?  Things worsen when the cost of utilities is included. A 915 square foot apartment has an average monthly utility payment of $145.00. So, just to secure housing costs an individual $11,000 a year.

I could go on about other skyrocketing price for such things as food and gas, but the costs for vehicles and housing produce enough sticker shock for me. I suppose folks must be raking in huge hunks of money these days. If not, they are treading water fast just to keep their heads above the currents of debt. I don’t see how a young family makes it, and I worry that prices in the future will only go higher. Sure the wealthy won’t have problems with cash but we who are middle class are that lucky. So, my question, once again, is how do folks afford those things?

PHOTOGRAPHS AND MEMORIES

Amy and her cousins met on a recent Sunday in Cookeville. They shared a wonderful spread of fried catfish, hush puppies, and French fries, accompanied by sweet tea and banana pudding. After all pushed back from the tables and patted full bellies, they attended to the business of the get-together: sharing family photo albums.  For the next couple of hours, the crew looked at photos, asked questions, and related stories. By the end of the day, all left with smiles on their faces and memories overflowing in their hearts.
All of us should take some time every so often to pull out the albums and boxes of photos. Something
magical happens. Looking at those old pictures puts smiles on our faces. We remember those vacations with family. In others, we recall the monumental birthday party or a graduation day. More recently, some of us can look at hundreds of pictures of newborn babies. Most of them are ugly little creatures, but in our minds, they are the most beautiful creations that have ever drawn breath.
Some of my favorite pictures are from childhood. Frozen in time are grandparents, cousins, parents, and brothers sitting in our front yard. Black and white photos have tinges of yellow from age, but being able to see once again everyone together is comforting. Several photos are of my parents and brothers on Easter. The camera always came out on that day; we boys had new outfits, and Daddy put on his best suit. He rarely smiled in pictures, but it was easy to see how pleased he felt to be with his family.
For some reason, my favorite old pictures are of Jim and me as we grew up. Both of us were unfortunate looking little people. Our heads looked too large to have been supported by slender necks. In later pictures, our stomachs grew so that we wondered how such skinny legs could prop them up. Pictures of us riding bikes in circles in the basement or wearing cowboy outfits complete with holsters and guns bring back smiles. So do the ones Mother snapped of our friends and dates before proms or during our 18th birthday party. It all seems to have taken place just a snap ago.
Maybe what we all would like is to be able to jump into some of those photos and hit the “run” button. For the next while, we’d be able to once again have time with the folks in those photos. I’d like another chance to sit on the towel atop the ice cream freezer as some adult cranked the handle. Then I’d spend a few minutes running and playing with cousins in the yard. It would be wonderful to have a family photo come to life just long enough
to give special hugs to Mother and Daddy and my brother and to tell them how much I love them.
My goal is to pull out those pictures and share them with them my children. I want them to know who the people are in the photos and then share some tales or information about each of them so that they
don’t die with me. I’m sure a couple of tears will fall and smiles will spread across my face as I look at fade photographs. Most of all, I just want to remember-good and bad times, all the things that have made this life of mine be such a glorious adventure to this point.


OLDER IS BETTER

Okay, I’m about to pour out some of my “gray panther” rage. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s one used to identify us of the older generation. Not all are senior citizens are retired; some gray panthers still are alive and well in today’s workforce. It’s for those folks whom I write.
Many of us turn toward retirement when we reach our 60’s. With just a little luck, our planning and savings offer us enough on which to live and pay monthly bills. However, not every person chooses to retire early or even at the regular retirement age. Some folks continue in the workforce because they simply need the money to exist. Their bills exceed what retirement income provides. Others are still vibrant folks who enjoy working and producing. They simply wish to continue plugging away in careers that have brought them personal fulfillment, in addition to a paycheck.
Those who remain in the world of work find life difficult. For one thing, they discover that others look at them as dinosaurs; they are considered too old to still be occupying a desk in some company.
Younger workers doubt that older folks can contribute to the bottom line of a company or in any way offer creative ideas that will benefit clients. Too often, these younger people doubt that oldsters can grasp the concepts of using technologies that make work easier and more efficient.
When workforce cuts are made, all too often the lion’s share of layoffs and RIF’s are laid at the feet of older workers. Companies can cut costs by ridding themselves of dedicated employees who have given years to their employers. The idea is that an old guy can be let go and replaced with a younger person whose salary will be much less. What bosses fail to realize is that the old guy in the corner is the one who knows how the entire machinery of a business works. Yes, he might make more than a rookie, but his knowledge is something that the new person can’t provide. That valuable information makes the business run more smoothly, and the shortcuts offer speed to the operation. Those things have been learned over time and won’t be around anymore. The replacement of old for new comes at the expense of productivity.
When job openings do occur, older workers don’t have a snowball’s chance of being hired. Employers look upon seasoned workers as folks who are washed up and worn out. They doubt that an older person can bring anything to a new, fast-paced business. Many bosses view older workers as
poor fits in today’s office environment. They assume that the veteran just won’t fit the culture of the office when it is staffed with younger workers; old is equated to slow.
What is ironic is that businesses often look for retirees to work on part-time bases. Employers prefer older people for such jobs for several reasons. First, people who return to the workplace actually show up to work every day, and they somehow manage to arrive either early or on time. Once they clock in, these undesirable folks work a full day and complete their assigned tasks; if they don’t, they clock out and then complete the work that they’ve been assigned. The whining and complaining that young workers too many times let fill the air are absent with a “retread worker.”

More workers are reaching the age of retirement; however, many of them choose to continue working. The question is whether employers will recognize the value that these older Americans offer. Wise business owners will choose to keep veteran workers and to take advantage of the skills they have and the work ethic by which they live. Sometimes, older is better.