My father and I didn't spend a lot of time together when I was growing up. He worked the day shift, which was 2:00 PM to 11:00PM at the Birmingham News. So, when I came home from school, he would always be at work. When he was at home he was often reading something about the union. He was the union shop steward at the News and it was something he took very seriously. The only thing I knew about unions was what I heard from my friends at school. All of them were convinced that unions were bad.
When I was 13 years old, I asked him one day about unions. "What do unions do? I mean, it seems to me that unions try and get something from the company that the company does not want to give, which sounds like one side is going to be disappointed, and maybe both sides. It just seems like a lose-lose, or at best a win- lose kind of deal."?
He thought for a few seconds and said, "well, it can seem like that at times, but, it can also be something more. You see it really takes labor and management working together to make things work really well. The problem is that both sides can lose sight of that and forget. But, when they believe that, well that's when you see good things happen - that something more that is possible that is usually missed.
I kind of understood what he meant that day, but it would not be until my adult years, and even after he had passed away, that I began to fully understand. Regardless, he planted a seed that day that has stayed with me since that day. In one way or another, I have always sought to find others that believe and therefore want to find that something more that is always possible when we come together, even though on the surface we may appear to have competing interests.
So that's the lesson that my father teaches me to this day, even though he is no longer physically present. If you and I want to get to good, we can't let superficial competing interests handcuff us. If we want to experience that something more, then we will set competing interests aside in an act of good faith, and listen to and respond to each others stories - until we get to that place where we can see what is good for all - that something more that has always been possible.
My life's work is dedicated to my father, Robert M. Pate, Jr - Dad, I remember you!