Wednesday, September 29

How the Other Half Lives

Today, I bring you one of my favorite storytellers, Billy Coffey. Be sure to visit his site
How the Other Half Lives

“Do not set your mind on high things,
but associate with the humble.”
(Rom. 16b NKJV)

 Let me tell you about Danny, the richest person I know.

His father owned a construction business that through hard work and entrepreneurial skill grew from one crew of five to ten crews of twelve. Migrants, mostly. Of questionable legality. But this was the sixties, and such things weren’t the issue they are now.

Danny was groomed from a young age to take over the business. At twelve, he began working alongside his father’s employees during summer vacation. It was backbreaking work, sweaty and dirty, but his father was adamant. Work your way up, he told Danny. That’s the best way.

The thinking behind that was simple. If Danny had a working knowledge of how to build, the business side of building would come easier. That was true. But also true was that Danny got to see how the other half lived. The people he worked with—the ones who hammered the nails and laid the brick—didn’t go home to big houses or dine in fancy restaurants. They were the ones who scraped by on what little Danny’s father paid them.

And it was little. Not even minimum wage. No benefits, no insurance, no vacation time. That’s about the time Danny pieced together why his father preferred the migrants. They weren’t in much of a position to complain.

His father rationalized his actions in the way we all sometimes rationalize ours—he spoke of the greater good. He talked of the good life he provided for his family and the successful business Danny would inherit. “That’s just the way the world works,” he told Danny one day. “People like us will always be more important than people like them.”

Fast forward forty years.

The construction company Danny owns no longer consists of ten crews of twelve men. It’s now thirty crews of fifteen. They are still mostly migrants, though he makes sure none have any legal question marks. Most days you can catch him at home with his wife and two children, along with however many of his employees stop by for dinner—always a few, most times many, and all are welcome.

Danny’s company has grown far beyond anything his father thought possible. He still builds houses, but now also strip malls and apartment buildings. He even pitched in on the new hospital just down the road. He always makes time for churches (Danny charges only for expenses on those and never takes a dime for himself) and has a fondness for charities like Habitat for Humanity.

If you’d see him passing you on the road in his old truck and his dirty work shirt, you’d never imagine he’s a millionaire.

That’s the way Danny likes it.

Ask him why, and he’ll tell you it’s because he knows how to run a business. He’s worked his way up, you see. He’s seen the other side. He’ll tell you without blinking that his thoughts aren’t on getting more but giving more.

And he’ll tell you that in the end, it’s his father’s workers and not his father who’s made him who he is.

10 Responses
  1. Terra Says:

    Lynn, thank you for sharing this by Billy Coffey here. I follow his blog. This post gave me goosebumps because what he writes is so TRUE.
    That word sums it up, "true."

  2. Helen Says:

    This was a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. HisFireFly Says:

    Billy always shoots straight form the hip, and like a two edged sword speaks truth in ways that touch and change hearts!

  4. MTJ Says:

    Hi Lynn/Billy,

    I think the philosophy in running a (large or small) business is, "getting more bang for the buck". Unfortunately, this approach minimizes the importance and value of employees. We see this as company after company reduces staff in an effort to maintain profitability.

    There are those in business who value the people they employ and their philosophy enables them to have sustainable success along with valued and loyal employess. This post illustrates that there is a more excellent way in corporate America.

    Blessings and peace.


  5. What a powerful story. I'll be thinking about it a good while. Thank you, Billy and Lynn!

  6. Debra Weiss Says:

    Wow, what a terrific story. It's really inspiring in a world gone crazy that some people really do still care. :)

  7. Powerful story! That what made him who he is were the workers he spent time with rather than the dad - awesome insight, and one I want to instill in my kids!

  8. Linda Yezak Says:

    Billy's stories drive points home better than any number of sermons on the same issues. I always enjoy reading his work.

    Thanks for posting this!

  9. Thanks for sharing this, Lynn. Billy has written a beautiful story that helps us remember what's important in life. Wish more companies were like what this one became after Danny saw how the other half lives.

  10. lynnmosher Says:

    Thank you all for reading and supporting Billy's post. Bless you!