I see this in the story of my father who came to America in 1909. His father had come here as a railroad worker to earn money to buy land to add to his small farm in Italy. He was killed in a railroad accident and the condition of his widow receiving a pension was that she live in the United States, so she settled in Yonkers, NY with her family. Her pension was a helping hand.
My father attended school to the 5th grade when he had to leave to help with family finances, but he continued to educate himself with books and newspapers, and even plays for which an employer gave him free tickets.
He had various jobs, not interesting to him, until he worked for the Otis Elevator Company where he was taught to wire electrical control boards. He became fascinated with electricity and taught himself with books purchased at used book sales. These included a set on technical electricity and one on elevator maintenance and repair. These, with help from his employer, eventually led to a job as part of a crew responsible for maintaining the elevators at the newly opened RCA building in New York City which then were the fastest in the world. Whenever I get on an elevator and see the name Otis I am thankful for the helping hand they gave my father.
A labor strike in the early 1940’s resulted in the entire crew being let go, and they picked potatoes on Long Island until, with the help of friends, they all got jobs in other companies; my dad with the NY Telephone Company maintaining elevators in their various buildings. The work plan among elevator repair men was that they always had a helper who they trained on the job. Again, the helping hand.
My parent’s wages and savings enabled them to buy a new house on Long Island with the help of the then new FHA. This afforded my brother and me a good education, This was their helping hand to us. My father enjoyed helping us with school and Scout science projects.
Over the years I have come to appreciate my father’s accomplishment as the result of his industriousness and the help of employers and friends. He traveled from being a fatherless boy of 9 to a successful life in a new country.
My college education was afforded in large part with my mother’s wages as an accomplished maker of evening and bridal gowns. She benefitted from the helping hand of a high school and trade school education. She helped another young woman learn dressmaking as her helper and they became best friends.
It has occurred to me over the years and as a result of writing this essay that helping others and responding positively with our industriousness to the help of others has been a family tradition that continues with my brother and me and our children.
This tradition is evident in good people and families all over the world and results in the improvement of our human condition.
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