“Would you like fries with that?” The simple question may be a cliché for the underachieving. One supposes it becomes the mantra of every low-performing high school dropout. They are mired in a grease-soaked world of serving high-calorie, low-nutrition-value foods to an endless line of bloated consumers. Hopes of advancement and escape to a greater calling are inevitably dashed by monotony under the fluorescents.
Yet, in a time when more and more Americans are failing to ever take a first job, does the criticism hold up? The federal government has asserted that as many as 30 percent of all able-bodied citizens could become permanently unemployed. They lack the access and skill to earn sufficient income to support themselves or their progeny. Thus, the argument goes, we must brace ourselves to provision these folks for the entirety of their lives. Perhaps.
At the same time, local businesses routinely fail to fill positions. Employers complain that openings go unoccupied as applicants decide to stay home rather than take entry-level jobs. But, how can someone become the supervisor who himself is unfamiliar with the nature of day-to-day work? Does taking a lesser opportunity give us necessary access, under the weight of our own effort and merit, to the next level? Have we become a culture so wealthy that we can afford to cast shame on those among us who would work rather than sit idle? If so, are we guaranteeing an inescapable bond of unrealized potential?
Lao Tzu, sixth century, B.C., Chinese, generally considered as founder of Taoism, is attributed with saying, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In offering fries, is the server unlocking access to new skills – facility, timing, temperance and management – even as she earns a bit? Without a first step, are we standing still?