Monday, June 1, 2009

Inspiration at the custard shop

And I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to rejoice in his work; for this is his lot. --Ecclesiastes 3:22

A friend and I stumbled upon a first-rate frozen custard shop in the small town of Clinton, Missouri, on our drive home from a writers conference. Just off the town square and a stone's throw from the courthouse, 1/2 Pints Frozen Custard served us the very biggest and best bowls of that cold confection (mine complete with rich caramel sauce and pecans) that we had ever smacked our lips over.

But even more inspiring than the custard was Mike, proprietor of 1/2 Pints. Being writers and keen observers of all things along our path (or so we like to think), my friend and I started asking Mike about his life and times in Clinton. It turned out that running the town's premier frozen custard store was his second job--he also drives a truck for a living. Between the two, he admitted, he was very busy. Mike was happy to tell us about how he bought the place and renovated it to the delightful state we found it in, how he named it after his diminutive wife, and how proud he was of all his employees. He hires mostly high school students and was quick to tell us the outstanding qualities of each one and what good workers they are and how misty-eyed one can get when they graduate and move on.

You could easily see how much these kids mean to Mike. And our short conversation with the student scooping custard that day made it clear that Mike is also an important figure in his employees' young lives.

It took me a long time to finish my custard and I didn't hurry. As we bid good-bye to Mike and his helper, promising to stop in whenever we came through their town again, two young athletic-looking students loped into the shop and sat down. I suspected they were more probably there to visit than to buy dessert, and what a wonderful thing that was. And so we found inspiration at the frozen custard shop--a kind man working hard with no complaints, creating jobs that teach some lucky local kids what he learned long ago, the value of honest labor.

Ain't that America something to see?

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