One of the building blocks often referred to in the historical chronology of the success of American capitalism is the American or “protestant” work ethic. How it became the protestant work ethic instead of the Catholic, Muslim or agnostic work ethic is a question to be dwelled on another time. However, though the work ethic of whatever religious stripe is often cited as a pillar of capitalistic success, it is also generally agreed that it is currently under siege. Numerous political and sociological variables are mentioned as the reason for the “decline” of the protestant work ethic.
If indeed the work ethic is either under siege, or in fact in decline, there are certainly obvious and numerous cases of its zealous and successful practice. They are all around us and many of them are indeed causes for celebration of American capitalism and the human spirit.
Louise Scribner has been a longtime newspaper delivery agent for The Bulletin. That however is a very small part of her story. Recently, she notified us of her need to resign from her newspaper route. That also is a small part of her story.
There are people who get up every morning and go to work; there are others who get up and look for an excuse not to go to work; and finally there are those who get up every morning knowing there is a reason to go to work and looking for that reason. Louise Scribner always knew there was a reason to go to work.
Louise as much, as any person alive, has had legitimate excuses not to go to work many days. However, she never failed to report to work or make plans to have her work covered even on the days when she was sickest or undergoing the most grueling chemotherapy treatments that came as part of her breast cancer diagnosis. I recall a year or so ago when she was first undergoing treatment she asked if someone could assist her on a Sunday morning because “the Sunday papers were too heavy for her to handle.” I volunteered to help her, and it turned out she had a drainage catheter attached. When I offered to drive and bag her papers while she gave directions she would not hear of it.
Up until a couple of weeks or so ago she delivered her daily newspaper route early in the morning, but now has decided to concentrate her efforts on her health recovery, as well she should. Her doctor simply recommended that she needed to get more rest as she fights her battle with cancer, a battle she has every reason to believe she will win. Certainly, she has many hundreds of people pulling and praying for her successful recovery.
The Brownwood Bulletin and, more specifically, the several hundred subscribers she serviced for the last six and a half years, have benefited from American capitalism Louise Scribner style.
So if the “protestant work ethic” is either in decline or under siege nobody has told Louise about it. Her dedication to a job well done and customers well served is a refreshing anomaly in a world fraught with fraudulent workman’s compensation claims and Monday morning sick “call- ins.” We will miss her at The Bulletin loading dock every morning and will be silently and prayerfully cheering for her every day as she wages her own personal war against breast cancer.
John Kliebenstein is circulation and operations manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesdays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.