I bumped into a long-time acquaintance who wondered aloud about the “middle class”.
This longtime teacher thought there was a time a “C” was a grade that was okay to get.
To me, “C” was the epitome of America’s middle class.
It meant there was room for improvement but you had moved forward.
Some would say the gap between rich and poor has grown greater.
I would argue that the distance between the extremes is less than it used to be because we no longer seem to have that wide expanse of middle ground that used to be referred to as the “middle class”.
My wife and I were talking about our Moms and Dads when we were growing up.
We used to say my wife’s family were the “country mice” while my family was the “city mice”.
We both agreed that for the most part, we lived the “middle class” life but early on, we both tended toward the poor side.
I don’t think my family became “middle class” until my Dad started to work for the Prudential.
My wife always enjoyed telling the story when her Dad couldn’t find his paycheck one day.
It had blown off a desk or table and got stuck in the window blinds.
He was frantic, even belligerent when he couldn’t find that check.
It was an anxious time until the pay check was finally located.
Early on in our own marriage, Neav and I made a slight wager on the 1970 MLB All-Star game played at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium, the first time under the lights..
If the National League won 5-4, we’d win the pool which would give us $25 dollars.
Not really much money by today’s standards but the winnings would allow us to pay for car insurance without cutting back on meals or some serious fund-juggling.
In the 12th inning Cincinnati’s Pete Rose rounded 3rd and headed to home and Ray Fosse, a Cleveland Indians was awaiting the throw.
I was torn.
I wanted Rose to score but I wanted Fosse to look good.
Rose barreled into Fosse, he dropped the ball and the Nationals won.
We won the pool but Fosse’s career was virtually over after suffering a shoulder injury in the collision.
Even though Rose helped us pay our car insurance, I’ve never been a fan of his because he took out a Tribesman.
There was another time when I had to leave Neav at the hospital in Alabama while I chased down friends to collect $25 so we could pay the insurance deductible.
But the situations cited point to economic standards.
I think “middle class” is much more than income.
It’s a mindset.
The “middle class” mindset is steeped in the classic American worth ethic.
Hard-working individuals who I’d describe as “C” letter graders would get by but always felt they could improve their station in life by pressing forward.
They always wanted to achieve the best they could for their families.
They’d get knocked down but guess what?
They’d get back up.
They weren’t expecting any handouts except for a hand out to help them get back on their feet.
Yet, they were typically generous folks who would never stop to help someone truly in need.
Families had two parents.
If the teacher disciplined you in school, expect the same when you got home.
The “middle class” was faithful.
Geez, we even had Miss Shook with weekly Bible training in school.
We only had a handful of black and white TV stations to watch and the only news was at 6PM and 11PM.
We had actual winners and losers.
Some kids would get cut from team rosters and not everyone got a trophy for just being there.
But despite what you may read or hear today, I still think the “middle class” mindset is alive in America.
Today’s media would have you believe that’s not true but in our “every-squeaking- wheel-gets-the-grease” society, the “middle class” doesn’t whine and complain.
It keeps plugging along, at times swimming upstream against the current but providing the mortar that holds the bricks of society in place.
Remembering my belief that news is the exception to the norm, and with a media focused on those exceptions, most of us know better.
Today, the “middle class” mindset is like a hibernating bear that is starting to be bothered by noises and outside distractions.
Eventually, this beast will wake up, shake its’ head and with a big bear paw, slap at those annoyances which will then focus on something else to bother.
Back in the early 70’s, the middle class’ was sometimes referred to as the “Silent Majority”.
Today, they’re still not saying much.
They’re too busy working hard, caring for family and respecting the amazing history of this country.
If this nation is so bad today, why do so may peoples from other parts of the world want to be here?
When’s the last time you’ve seen a bus full of people headed for North Korea?
When that bear has had enough, it will stretch and cast a long shadow and folks will know the “middle class” is still here.
Alive and well in America.