Back to Basics: Looking for good helpWritten by Charles Baugher | | firstname.lastname@example.org
If you talk to any business owner or manager, they usually state that the hardest part of their job is finding, what is referred to as “good help”. Most companies (I know, not all) offer advancement, well above average wages, and decent benefits for anyone who is willing to work hard and take care of people. It has nothing to do with unions, or evil corporations abusing their employees. This is a false dichotomy produced by a media culture that sees things in terms of polar opposites. It has to do with the fact that we have lost our good old fashioned Christian work ethic in NW Ohio and other dying post industrial areas. While the causes are complex and deep, placing blame will not provide a solution. Only a change of heart at the grassroots level will. This is something that used to be done by the churches and within the home, but we have lost that as well.
I may be sounding nostalgic and painting yesteryear as some sort of utopia. But I cannot help looking into Toledo’s history to a time where the population was double what it is today and business had “help wanted” signs everywhere. It was a time where one could leave high school and if they were willing to work, make a good living for themselves. My how times have changed! As is well known, we have been on a slide (or have hit bottom) in nearly every measurable category for nearly four decades. Meanwhile, other areas usually in the south or west have remained fairly stable or are even growing before, during, and after what has been dubbed the “Great Recession”. Toledo has yet to see this revitalizing spark, and will not until we reclaim our good old fashioned Christian work ethic. We blame the politicians, unions, schools, corporations, and everything that has a semi-public presence. This is because we deny the deeper problem, and that is one deep within ourselves.
I know some would argue that per capita, worker productivity has never been higher. This national statistic reflects the productivity increases that come from a complex variety of factors including robotics, automation, and computers that have increased worker efficiency. It also reflects a highly trained work force. I am not arguing that this is not true. I am arguing that it is not true in Toledo. Not in Detroit. Not in Cleveland. And it will not happen until we reinstall in ourselves the same mentality and ethic that built this country.
I know the age old notion of working hard, loving your family, and loving your God is cliché. However, this attitude not only creates people who are productive for their employer, but the type of people who also start their own factories and businesses. It produces a spiral of productivity, job creation, and then good wages that grow an economy. We have believed a myth that companies magically appear, or move into an area, thus completely transforming the local economy. However, a look at American history shows that companies are built, created, and grown from the inside. This can only happen when a group of hard workers get together. History shows us that strong economies are built upward from the inside, not drug in from the outside. And neither will happen until us as a community reclaims our former ethic. While not popular today, it was those same ethics that built this community, our churches, our schools, and our families. Waiting for some to hand us economy will get us nowhere.
My intention here is not to generalize or to oversimplify the terribly complex problem of a community in decline like Toledo or Detroit. I also fully understand that when companies like Dana and O-I are willing to spend millions just to move a few miles down the road to escape Toledo, does not help. I understand that the problem is multi-faceted and will need a comprehensive approach. However, we need to stop dwelling in the past. Instead, we need to understand that a change in attitude is one (but not all) crucial building block for our return. Nor is my intention to make assumptions or generalizations about the entire population, claiming they are this way or that. Instead, I am dreaming about what we could be. I am calling all of us to be something greater. Until we are willing to stop outward finger pointing and instead do the hard work of looking inward, we will never move forward. Blame is not a virtue. Using our talents, gifts, and work ethic for the benefit of ourselves, our God, and our community is.
Charles Baugher was born in Kansas City, MO and moved to Toledo while a teenager. He is married and a proud father of three children. He graduated from Rogers High School, then Lourdes College with a BA in Theology. He is currently serving Calvary United Methodist Church and studying for a Master of Divinity Degree at Methodist Theological School in Ohio.