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Viewpoint: Did I Hear You Say Your Daily Commute Was a Hassle?

May 11, 2015
When asked what keeps him going, Mr. Robertson attributed it to his faith and the way he was raised.

“Do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man.” — Lain Duncan Smith

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to believe that the news is something to be avoided at all costs if you want to retain your sanity and even a smidgen of humor!

Today’s news is so brimming with crime, terrorism, inept politicians and negativity that apparently many people are opting to just stay in bed, pulling the covers
over their heads and shutting out the world. A spot of good news might help occasionally, so here’s my contribution.

Recently I came across a story about perseverance, modesty and downright determination that I believe exemplifies exceptionalism in a world that at times seems to be in a downward spiral to oblivion.

James Robertson, a 59-year-old Detroit factory worker has been commuting over 21 miles a day, mostly by foot, to his $10.50 an hour job operating an injection mold machine at the Schain Mold and Engineering Company in Rochester Hills, Michigan. What is even more incredible is the fact that he has been doing it Monday through Friday for 10 years, ever since his car quit and he couldn’t afford to have it repaired. Leaving home at 8 a.m., he arrives at work at 12:30 p.m., starts his shift at 2:00 p.m. and works until 10:00 p.m., then starts the trek back to Detroit, arriving home at 4 a.m. He gets a couple hours’ sleep and starts the process again at 8:00 a.m. and modestly says he catches up on his sleep on the weekends. Due to limited bus service in the areas around Detroit, he must walk most of the way and what is even more incredible is that in spite of adverse weather and walking through high-crime areas in the middle of the night, he has never missed a day of work.

Todd Wilson, plant manager at the company said they set their attendance standards by what Mr. Robertson has done, and in spite of it, he still has workers that live 10 minutes away from the plant complaining that they can’t make it in.

When asked what keeps him going, Mr. Robertson attributed it to his faith and the way he was raised. He said he couldn’t imagine not working and looks forward to being with his co-workers, “who are like family.”

He told CBS News “I do it with no excuses. If you want something, you’ve got to go out and get it. You better go ahead and do it because your girlfriend don’t want to hear it, your co-workers don’t want to hear it, and you got to get up and do it again the next day.”

After hearing the story, 19-year-old Evan Leedy, a local Wayne State University student set up a account to raise $5,000 for a car for Mr. Robertson and ended up quickly raising $350,000 before it was shut down.

In addition, a local Ford dealer donated a new Taurus and several financial managers are donating their time to coach him on managing the funds. Mr. Robertson said he has no intentions of quitting his job, and leaving bosses and coworkers he cares so deeply about, or ever moving from the neighborhood in central Detroit, where he has lived his entire life.

Personally, I am deeply touched and encouraged by the gentleness, courage and downright determination exhibited by this gentleman. I have always been a firm believer that “you do what you have to do,” and as we have done so, the sacrifices and hard work were for a relatively short period of time, certainly not week to week for 10 years.

I believe Mr. Roberson is the type of unique individual that society should be idolizing rather than those sports figures and celebrities whose life choices are an embarrassment to all. 

Alas, I do believe there is hope!

Ciao baby.

Don Frendberg is principal of Phase 3 Insights, LLC, based in Naples, FL. He was previously executive director of the HVACR Workforce Development Foundation and past chairman of North American Technician Excellence (NATE).