Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

The Man Who Did Everything All By Himself

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Some people act as though they live in the world all alone and that their achievements were accomplished all by themselves. I am often amazed at the nature of discourse in our country today where some people believe that everything that they have accomplished in life was garnered solely by the wit and strength of their own powers. They give no credit to others for their opportunities and advancements, and applaud few if any for helping them get to where they now are. They act as if they are living in a universe all by themselves and that all credit is due solely to themselves for what they have achieved in life.

One man bragged to me some years ago that he was a genius and everything that he received in life was the result of his own industry and tireless work ethic. He never mentioned that his mother scrubbed the floors of white people to get him through college; never uttered thanks for the man who took him under his wing as an apprentice in his tool shop; never talked about the doctor who saved his life after a terrible car accident. Here he was living all by himself, never needing a helping hand for anything in life. He was the creator, master and ruler of his own universe; the quintessential titan of an “empire” that he had fashioned by his hands alone.

How sad this is, for everyone in life is indebted to someone else who has helped him or her get where he or she is today. We all stand on the shoulders of other persons who have helped pave our way and have made sacrifices on our behalf.  We are always in debt to someone else because somewhere along our journey we received the helping hands of other persons, sometimes known and other times unknown. None of us can take serious credit for doing it all by ourselves and those who claim to have made it in such fashion should cease and desist from such disingenuous vainglory.

America did not receive all of it wealth on its own. Somebody had to work her fields and build her bridges. Someone had to forge her steel and stoke her steamers. Someone had to work from “can’t see to can’t see, to build the wealth of this nation. How can we say that the rich have built America’s wealth all by themselves?

Someone casually observed to me in a class at the University of Chicago many moons ago about how sad it is that African Americans are always looking for a handout; and that the welfare mentality among some blacks is bad and that blacks should develop a stronger work ethic. I reminded this individual that the original welfare system in America was slavery and that had our ancestors been paid a decent wage and been allowed to build wealth, America might not even possess its current wealth and there might be no need for a welfare system today. Thus whatever we receive today as “welfare” to help us get on our feet should be viewed as a hand up and not a hand out.

This classmate actually believed that the great minds and entrepreneurs who helped build America’s wealth did it on their own without the three hundred and fifty years of slave labor. His response to me was, “I never thought of it that way before Carlyle. I never thought of it that way.”

The point is that we must get beyond this notion of an America where only the rich and super rich have built the wealth of this nation “all by themselves.” Everyone has had a hand in making our nation and world a better place and we should stop subtracting credit from people who have actually worked hard to help this nation financially prosper. We should give proper kudos to them for the ways in which they have helped build the great wealth of a great nation.

Nobody does anything all by himself. We are all beneficiaries of someone else’s labor, counsel, prayers or largess.  We are all indebted to someone at sometime who has helped pay our “destination charges”  to arrive at those cherished places and stations that we all long and strive for in life.

Sometimes I wonder if people claim to do everything all by themselves so they are not under any moral obligation to help someone else in need.  If someone has helped me then perhaps I should help someone else, for one good turn deserves another.

Let us each remember that “Life is not a solo flight and anyone who thinks that he is flying alone should remember who built the plane in which he now flies .”

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