Minimum Wage Versus Maximum Influence

I read a fabulous story about Booker T. Washington Sunday. For those who don’t know, Booker T. Washington was a well-respected and well known black educator. He worked to strengthen the relationships among blacks and whites in the post-Civil War era. As a result of his labors over 5,000 schools were established in the South. “Up From Slavery,” his autobiography, is considered one of the most influential books of all time. His influence extended to politicians and wealthy people of his time.

After he became president of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Professor Washington was walking down a wealthy part of town when he was stopped by a well-to-do white woman. Obviously not recognizing the black man in front of her, she asked him if he would like to earn a few dollars chopping some wood for her.

Guess what Mr. Washington did? One could presume what Rev. Al Sharpton would do. It wouldn’t take much imagination to ponder the reaction of the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Any member of the modern NAACP would have been livid and that woman and everyone within a block or two would’ve known whom she had the misfortune of running into and mistaking for a “lesser” man.
However, Booker T. Washington rolled up his sleeves and got to work. He chopped that wood. Washington carried it into the house and he laid it by the fireplace for a few dollars and then he went on his way.

As he left, a young girl recognized him. She had informed this rich woman who it was who chopped her wood. The woman was mortified.

While Mr. Washington was in his office the very next day, guess who was to show up? That’s right, the same woman, only a little more humble and very apologetic. So, how did Mr. Washington respond? You or I may have taken the opportunity to let her know how she should treat people and not to presume anything of any man, woman or child. However, that is not what Booker T. Washington did at all.

“It’s perfectly all right, madam,” he replied. “Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it’s always a delight to do something for a friend.”

Not knowing the rest of the story, some may take Mr. Washington for a fool. Yet, the woman shook his hand warmly and assured him that his demeanor had left a great impression upon her. Soon afterward, she had persuaded some wealthy friends to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute. Now that is quite an hourly rate for cutting some wood, don’t you think?

Note: this story is adapted from the one found in the following: Gary Chapman, Love As a Way of Life, (New York: Doubleday, 2008), 108.

P.S. You can get your Kindle copy of Up From Slavery for FREE. Just click on the link provided in the Amazon box. If you don’t have a Kindle, there is a free Kindle for PC and other app programs you can download from the Amazon site as found here:

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