By Gerald Daniels
My work with DanWell Companies takes me along the highways and byways of Southeastern Oklahoma, where I sometimes meet people that you just want to slow down and visit a few extra minutes with. I met two such people this past week that left an indelible impression on my life. Their wisdom and insight is timeless, tried, and true.
On an old buffalo trail, in Southeastern Oklahoma, you’ll find the quiet little community of Caddo. It is not unlike many of the older cities that dot our state, except for one thing, Caddo is home to Mrs. Meadows. She is a retired professor of Home Economics at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Our meeting was not by chance, as we had a scheduled appointment to review a contract for work at her home. Mrs. Meadows informed me, as we sat on her screened-in porch, that home economics, not just political economics is what we need if we ever want to get our country out of this mess we’re in. “Yes ma’am,” I replied. In fifteen minutes or so she covered the household budget, a savings account, sewing on a button, meal planning for moms on the go, and the importance of being civic minded. We eventually got back to the business at hand, we covered all the bases, and I thanked her for her time. I stepped from the screened-in porch, to the dappled shade of a giant pecan tree in her front yard. Under one arm were the signed contracts, under the other I had a loaf of homemade bread. Yet the best part of the meeting was slowing down for a few minutes and learning from her that “working to live is better than living to work.” Mrs. Meadows is eighty-four years old.
Driving from a jobsite recently, I saw a huge pile of cut and split firewood. Right beside it was row after row of corded firewood. It is not an uncommon site in our neck of the woods to see stacked firewood. What was uncommon was the uniformity of each row with even the huge random pile appearing to have a systematic piling method. I was taking the DanWell men to dinner at the senior citizens/community center in Silo, Oklahoma. Dinner is $3.50 a plate — beef stroganoff, salad, buttered corn, pinto beans, corn bread, a hunk of onion, and ice tea, of course. We sat down to eat, blessed the food, then we all dug in. A gentleman came to our table and introduced himself as Conway Harper. He told everyone to be sure and get dessert and a cup of coffee before leaving. It wasn’t long before Conway was sitting at the table with us. He was curious about the work we were doing, and wanted to know if anyone needed any firewood. I had to ask, “Is that your wood pile just past the creek?” “Yes, he replied,” I retired from Ford Motor Company in 1975, and haven’t missed a day of work since. He told me his purpose is to help working people work. “Just help working people — that’s what I do.” Conway Harper is eighty-eight years old.
Help the working people to work — what a novel purpose, I thought. Looking across the dinner table at the men who work for DanWell Companies, it occurred to me that Conway is not just talking about wages, salaries, benefits, or perks. He is talking about the advantage of living a life with purpose. He helps working people to work, so that they can find their self worth not in what they do, but in who they can become.
Mrs. Meadows recently called to inquire about another project she is accepting bids on. Instead of blocking out my customary hour in the day planner to peruse a contract, with her I’m going to leave it blank. There is no doubt she will want to talk. And when a home economics teacher talks, we all need to listen. Who knows, there might be some homemade bread baking, too.