A Penny a Dress

It was the Great Depression, and Tony Bennett’s mother was desperate to keep food on the table in the wake of her husband’s passing. She worked as a seamstress and earned a penny per dress to feed her three children.

Sometimes I think things could be better in my life, but rarely do I stop to remember that they could be far worse, too. Let’s break it down: I have a roof over my head, food to eat, clothing to wear and transportation that allows me to get to a job. Many around the world can’t say the same.

We have no idea what it’s like to live in the 1930s — we can only read about the Depression or, if we’re lucky, maybe a surviving grandparent can tell us what it was like. Times were beyond tough and, God willing, we never experience anything of that magnitude again.

But if we did, would we work for a penny a dress? Could we humble ourselves to do what it took to provide — in an honorable manner — for our families?

Would we be stuck in the past and reliving the good times? Would we remind people of who we were, what we had and what we accomplished, too proud to shift to a new way of living and too oblivious to realize that the playing field had been leveled? Would the idea of hard work be in line with what we thought it was during better times, or would we have a rude awakening when it came time to roll up our sleeves?

I think most of us have no idea what hard work really is. I know I’ve worked hard, but not a-penny-a-dress hard. Most of us don’t know what it’s like to go hungry or to go without. We don’t know what it’s like to truly be in need.

Tonight I am thankful for the lessons that history had taught us, for the stick-to-it-ness of Americans before us, and for the inspirational reminders that those still among us share.

A penny a dress is so much more than an agreed upon payment for work or a story of someone’s mother — it’s proof that we can all dig deep within ourselves and focus on the needs versus the wants. We may all be used to a life of relative excess, but hard work got us here and can get us out once again if and when things begin to crumble.

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