What Success Looks Like

Twice this week I was touched by a story of the kind of success we don’t often recognize.

After a fairly large grocery-shopping trip, I realized I had forgotten one thing that I could get quickly at the corner convenience store. So I ran out to do that.

At the counter was a friendly middle age guy who I have seen there over a few years. As he rang up the charge, I said, “How are you today?”

He said, “I’m doing pretty well.” Then, after a few seconds he added, “I got healthcare today.”

I quickly realized it was Monday, March 31, the last day to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. I felt like I was in a commercial promoting the new health care law.

I said, “Wow, that’s great!” And I asked how he did that (no one was behind me so I felt free to chat a bit). He said, “I went to that Kay-Y-Nect.” He was referring to our state-run exchange, kynect. I said, “Did it work for you?”

He said it did and the plan would save him about $40 per month. His new plan included coverage of his prescriptions, which his current plan didn’t. We agreed that sounded very good.

At the end of our conversation he said, “I don’t have to worry any more.” Now, in our stressed out society, that’s something.

Later in the week, back in the grocery store one morning, I got behind another middle age man I recognized who worked at a local fast food restaurant.

He was buying what looked like about 12 dozen eggs. I said, “Looks like you ran out of eggs.”

He laughed and said, “Yes, didn’t think we would use that many this week.”

I asked him where he worked (I already knew), and he smiled, turned toward me and pointed to the name of the establishment embroidered on his shirt.

I said, “How long have you been there?” He told me he had worked at this fast food place for 18 years.

Now, I have been there a number of times, not enough for him to recognize me among the sea of people who stream in and out, but enough for me to observe his head-down, hard-working style. Once I was there in a long line of customers including a group of students and their parents barking orders, changes to orders, etc. He showed no frustration, while I cringed at their lack of consideration.

This day, I realized the years, months, days and hours he endured for what seems now to be a stable job he takes pride in.

These are examples of two people holding down jobs we don’t often count as success in education circles. But, in fact they are important examples of success, and they are making their lives work.

Whatever you think about the new health care law, it helped this cashier. He was paying attention and taking advantage of any way to stretch his dollar and to take care of himself.

The fast food worker may well be the manager, but I’ll bet he didn’t start that way. He is an example of sticking to something, being a dependable worker and making a living. I hope his employer recognizes how valuable he is.

Maybe these men went to public schools, maybe some college. Whatever their education history, they are solid citizens, and contributing to the community.

Somewhere along the way they learned important life skills that kept them moving forward.

We should recognize more often that this is a version of success we should value, and in doing so value every person’s life.




About Debbie Wesslund

I served on the Jefferson County Board of Education, Louisville, KY, from 2007-2014 and continue to be an advocate for public schools. There’s a high-level dialogue about public education that swings from positive to negative, with many who seek the spotlight voicing an inaccurate picture of our public schools. Words matter. They get lodged in our public perceptions, creating a narrative that doesn’t reflect the real story. There’s so much more to public education, and much worth applauding in Kentucky and across the country. The stakes are high: public education is the most serious public business we are about as a community, a state and a nation. We must continually renew our resolve to support public education. There’s always more promise in building something up, than in tearing it down.
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1 Response to What Success Looks Like

  1. Brad Matthews says:

    Wonderful observations and reflection on what success can look like. Very thoughtful!!!

    Sent from my iPhone

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