The boy who said ‘Yes, sir’

The Weekly Vista - - Opinion - RON WOOD

The young man stood be­side the gravel road and watched the car ap­proach. He saw two men in­side. Fur­ther down the road, where the mine was start­ing op­er­a­tions, the young man knew they were hir­ing work­ers. The same car passed by each morn­ing on its way to the plant. Ev­ery morn­ing he stood be­side the road at the stop sign, hop­ing to speak to some­one, want­ing a job.

One morn­ing, the car stopped right in front of him. This morn­ing, the driver rolled down the win­dow, leaned out, looked him over, and asked a ques­tion. “Son, how old are you? “Sir, I’m 16 years old.” “Can you work hard?” “Yes, sir! I’m a hard worker.”

“I’ll give you a chance to prove it. Climb in.”

This be­came his first job in a ca­reer that lasted a life­time. The driver was my father. He had been a union or­ga­nizer for a phos­phate mine. Smith-Dou­glas hired him away to be a shift fore­men for their new plant, the Tenoroc mine in Lake­land, Fla.

Dad was on the look­out for re­li­able men. At the plant’s peak, a thou­sand men worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They went a mil­lion-man hours with­out a lost-time ac­ci­dent—an in­dus­try first—in a haz­ardous in­dus­try where men worked be­side heavy equip­ment like bull­doz­ers, pres­sur­ized pipes, hot steam, acids, and mas­sive draglines that could walk.

Dad gave the young man a shovel and put him on the mid­night shift. His job was dirty and hard. He fol­lowed be­hind heavy equip­ment, clean­ing up, fin­ish­ing jobs, mak­ing things look good. It was a tough task done at rough hours. He earned a rep­u­ta­tion for good work. He was known for help­ing other men after his job was com­plete. Help­ing oth­ers, he learned how to do their job. In a few years, he was made fore­man of the night shift.

When dad be­came plant su­per­in­ten­dent, he chose this man to be on his team, mak­ing his ca­reer en­dure for decades. Now re­tired, this man and his wife live well and en­joy life.

The bless­ings be­gan when he said “sir” to the right man at the right time.

I re­cently sat in a High School class hear­ing a coach at­tempt­ing to get through to a sullen boy. The stu­dent was fail­ing, not fo­cused, and seemed un­will­ing to try. For ev­ery ad­mo­ni­tion, he had an ex­cuse. For each in­struc­tion, he had a re­tort; a wise­crack. In his eyes, he was pop­u­lar. That was enough. To me, he seemed smother-loved and father-lost. He’ll be shuf­fled along to a new class, an­other grade, but he’ll never make the cut to be­come a grown-up, re­spon­si­ble man.

The coach fi­nally gave up. “It’s hard to pour wa­ter into a full cup,” he said.

At an­other school, in an el­e­men­tary class, one boy caught my eye. I’d learned that things were chaotic for him at home — is­sues be­yond his con­trol, a mother in jail. He was miss­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties at school be­cause he had a sullen at­ti­tude. His teach­ers got the brush off. I took him aside. We had a “grandpa” talk. I told him about the power of us­ing “Yes Sir” or “Yes Ma’am.” I ex­plained how show­ing re­spect to his teacher could help him pay at­ten­tion, lis­ten, and learn.

You may never know what op­por­tu­nity passes you by be­cause of dis­re­spect. If you give re­spect away, it comes back to you. You may be one per­son away from a life­time of bless­ings — but only if you pay at­ten­tion, are will­ing to work, and from your heart you can say, “Sir!”


Ron Wood is a writer and min­is­ter. Con­tact him at or visit The opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.