There are so many lagging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although everything can’t be blamed on COVID, there are a few results which are undeniable. Many learned they would rather stay at home and “draw” a check than go to work every day and work.

Some have said it is not that members of the younger generation don’t want to work, but they don’t want to work much. And let’s face the fact that the younger ones among us have been fed a steady diet of conversation that goes something like this, “Our generation will be ok in the face of all the reckless federal government spending and growing national debt, but its going to bankrupt our children and grandchildren.” So why, one might ask, should I pour my life into any job or cause when I will end up broke?

Of course, the growing labor shortage was only made worse by COVID.

For some, once they got out of the work habit, it was hard to get back into the flow.

I don’t know that it can be blamed on COVID, but it seems we came out of the pandemic blaming a variety of problems and delays on the supply chain. The supply chain has been given a really bad name these days. But I think the real problem finds its roots in not only a declining workforce, but also in less-dedicated workers. You know the old cliché ... “You just can’t find good help anymore.”

Of course, you can always find exceptions to the rule.

But you can witness it everywhere. I told a friend recently that we will probably never see great personal customer service as we have known in the past, ever again. Personal service must have a special ingredient ... let’s call it heart.

Have you ever heard someone say, “He doesn’t have his heart in it,” or, “She just didn’t have her heart in it?”

A good friend of mine was laid to rest this past weekend. His name was Mark Holder.

Mark’s name was synonymous with the Trousdale Livestock Market in Hartsville for many years. In livestock circles he was well-known from Hop’town to K’town.

Mark was a throwback to his grandfather and the old, crusty livestock operators of that generation. When I considered one word which I would use to describe Mark, I came up with “accommodating.” You have to have your heart in it to be accommodating.

Thinking of Mark took me back many years to my livestock marketing days. One memorable occasion found me on a farm in northern Middle Tennessee where I had been called upon to bid on a farmer’s cattle. I found it to be a most unusual situation as the farmer was grazing his cowherd and his last three calf crops in the same pasture. That’s right. He had steers as big as cows, 600-700-pound yearlings and then, the young ones.

And he wanted two price quotes — one for the steers and one for the heifers. I knew I was well in over my head, so we called in my professional order buyer.

He came, made an offer, and the seller accepted.

By the way, I forgot to mention an important bit of information. In my negotiations with the farmer, I came to the conclusion that he was one the toughest, most ornery individuals I had ever met.

A day was set to gather and sort the cattle. Two tractor-trailers would be positioned at the bottom of the hill, and cattle would be shuttled from the feed barn on smaller straight trucks to the waiting transports. On the appointed day, the skies were dark and threatening, which caused our pace to be stepped up. A long day lay ahead. It turned out to be grueling. Wide hallways and narrow stable doors in the dark hallways of an old feed barn offer all the ingredients of a death trap. Sorting turned out to be a nightmare. It was not one of my best days, and the old farmer was quick to point out my every mistake. He was unrelenting in his criticism. I chose to suffer in silence.

At the end of the day, I was physically exhausted and emotionally spent. I have never felt like such a failure.

My situation that day was not helped by the fact I had chosen to wear heavy overshoes, the kind with metal closures down the front (which I don’t think they make anymore.) When I followed the last truck to the bottom of the hill, I could barely pick up my feet.

Suddenly, flashes of lightning drew my attention back to the barn at the top of hill. The old barn looked like a tired, old sentry against the darkened sky. And there beside it was the hulking figure of the old farmer trying to move his loading chute, an almost impossible task for one man. At the same moment, the rain arrived. It first came as big drops, making silver dollar-sized craters in the dust. Then, the dust became a sticky mud.

I was presented with a pressing dilemma. Should I race back up the hill and help him? I decided that I should. With boots that grew heavier with mud with every step I took, I sprinted up the hill and arrived just in time to throw my shoulder into the loading chute as we easily rolled it into its proper resting place.

The farmer took a chain, which had a ring in the end, and dropped it over a hook on the side of the barn ... job done.

Then, he turned to me, and I looked into the eyes of a man I had never seen before. For his eyes were soft and kind, as he said in a quiet voice, “Thank you, boy. You are the only one in this whole outfit that has his heart in this.”

In all my years, it ranks as one of my finest moments.

Hartsville resident Jack McCall is an author and motivational speaker.

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