Paul Greenberg

Like most Americans, the old man was too deeply involved with labor and capital to think in those terms. Instead he thought in terms of people and whether their work - and their word - was good.

When he died, people the family couldn't remember, maybe had never seen, showed up at the house to pay their respects. They'd all tell much the same story-how he'd given them credit when they needed it, or a little help when they were trying to get started.PB

He liked giving people a start. There was Henry Johnson, for example, whom he'd hired as a boy - and taught how to fix shoes. Henry would stay with him for the next 50 years through the old man's various ventures, mastering one skill after another.

His apprentice would grow old with him, teaching his boss as much he'd learned, and die two weeks before the old man himself did. The family smiled knowingly. They understood that Henry had just gone ahead, as usual, to scout the territory.

On this Labor Day, a great deal will be said in the usual press releases, but none of it will be more eloquent than work done well. To me, two new soles on a pair of well-shined shoes still say more than all the Labor Day speeches ever written.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.