Building a Work Ethic with Five Cents per Bag of Trash

Naalehu, HI. – A senior lady would come every other day to pick up the cardboard trash at the local grocery store Island Market. What was unusual, she used a brand new shinny red Ford F-150 Ford truck; my curiosity was awakened.

My wife Amy and I opened a grocery and convenience store, called Wiki-Wiki Mart – Union 76, two blocks away from Island Market.  When our trash and recycling service provider stopped I asked the lady to take over the service, so Sue Barnett, started taking care of our trash and recycling service; she was punctual and did a very good job for us.  I had to remind her to cash her monthly checks; there were four months of checks outstanding.  She was donating her checks to Naalehu Main Street a local non-profit group. The group told Sue it was “not worth the hassle to them” as they were phasing out of their group.  Sue finally cashed her checks.  This intriguing women worked very hard, then gave her money away.

After couple of years, Sue comes to the store with another new red Ford F-150 truck, wow,  how does this lady survive; giving away her income and buying another new truck.  So my curiosity peaked.  Finally, I ask her about her prior occupation; she said she was a retired veterinarian; wow, now it made sense.  She was taking the cardboard and making mulch for resale. Sue was always busy and very resourceful.  She donated her time once a month to neuter cats and dogs in the community; a very caring and giving person who shared her skills freely and with much compassion and aloha. One day she came to the store with a large “Black and Blue” mark on her thigh, she said a donkey bit her, then remarking how painful that was… yikes, I guess after a life long career she was used to those kind of rare experiences.

Now wanting to find out how she became so diligent I asked her if I could meet her for breakfast and listen to how she was raised by the parents; her story would be shared with http://www.Startsathome.org. She said yes and I waited with baited breath to hear her story.

She explained she did not come from a rich family and her parents had to work hard to put food on the table. Sue said “if you want something you have to work”  Her mom said if you want a comic you have to work. So the mom would send them into the neighborhood to pick up trash and she’d pay them five (5) cents for a bag of trash or pull weeds around the house. “So when you got what you wanted you’d appreciate it a lot more.”  She’s concerned about “today’s kids who feels that they are entitled to what they want and not investing the time to get it or stealing instead of working.”

An interesting comment she mentioned is “the’re kids that are born poor and die poor and there are kids that are born rich and die poor” She believes and a strong work ethics keeps people out of poverty. She appreciated her mom keeping her goals realistic and can remember wanting a pony and her mom said that’s too much money. “Having realistic goals can help and will encourage success”. She also sees that when people are not successful and give up could commit suicide. Sue says “we should learn from our failures, it’s the best teacher.  So get up and get going.”

Sue went to a local college with the scholarships she earned, then worked her way through graduate school.  She doesn’t like to be called doctor or use her professional designation as VMD.  She said those titles a not important as they cause to much “one up-man-ship”.  The community has come to know her as Aunty Sue.  Thank you Aunty Sue.

Written by Carl Okuyama

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