“Making that peanut butter and jelly sandwich was not going to be an opportunity for praise. It was expected of me. It was my first task of the day, and doing it right was important. It demonstrated my discipline … attention to detail … a reminder that I had done something well … no matter how small the task.”
That’s not the real-deal quote. And I’ll tell you why in a bit.
Those are the words of a career Navy SEAL … and, no … he didn’t make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He made his bed. And that’s no lie.
If you haven’t heard, he scribbled a run-away best-seller called “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World”. It’s pithy and quick … such an easy swallow my teenage grandson ate it in one night. The book … not the sandwich.
Bill McRaven is the guy who laid out that simple commandment. He says it’s important to dare yourself. To challenge yourself. Every day. Even in the smallest ways … like making your bed or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich … because those are very fine habits that grow lots of other good things.
It grows discipline. Begin something … see it through. Could be any chore … any task … big or not-so-big. Start something, finish that something. Everyday. It’s your job. Not anyone else’s. Yours. Own it.
It grows admiration. People notice that you can be counted on … that you don’t fall down on the job. That role model thingy? … it’s real … and everyone knows it.
It grows pride. That inside satisfaction you get from your own achievements … even if that achievement is making the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich of all time.
It grows class. The stuff that quietly impresses. Call it character. It’s all in the way you put yourself together … or how speak … or listen … or spread that peanut butter and jelly. You spot others who share those same things … and that puts in positive company. A circle of success … and not in a bad circle.
This week, peanut butter is on sale … for nine dimes … 88 pennies to be precise. Jelly isn’t much more. Bread about a buck. That’ll make a fair number of pb & j sandwiches.
But now … now this is apparently too much of a chore for lots of American families.
Slappin’ together that peanut butter and jelly sandwich is … well … too expensive. Really?
And takes too much time. Is that true? And the kids aren’t crazy for it. Tough.
Of course, this is about more than just soggy sandwiches. It’s about politics and ideologies. And control. And manipulation.
New York City is the latest major city to offer free lunches to every single student. And it’s being hailed as the most humane relief imaginable.
Did you know there’s famine in New York? And Chicago? And Los Angeles. And Baltimore? No one told me.
And, of course, there isn’t. But there might be a famine of a different sort. A famine of truth. And it’s reality that’s being starved to death.
America is the most secure and comfortable nation the world has ever known. But that’s not the narrative.
Narratives aren’t pals with the truth. They hang out with cronies like propaganda, bias, and exaggeration. And blame.
Narratives serve an ideology … a means to an end. They’re a manipulating device that bends the truth as a political strategy. It’s not new … and it’s never going away. It’s a potent political tool.
America now has more narratives than common sense. And history tells us this makes for bad history.
Too many have fallen for these luscious lies.
Politicians love these narratives. A long ago genius remarked that “If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.”
And because of such luscious promises … well … lots don’t feel they have to make their beds. Or slap together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich … because someone has relieved them of those responsibilities … that bit of discipline. Told ‘em it’s not a necessity. Told ‘em not to trouble themselves about pride and class … because those qualities are for “other” people to worry about. And that other folks will pick up the slack …and do their small tasks for them.
Know what? It’s true … there is no such thing as a free lunch.
And these so-called free lunches … well … they have an especially ugly cost.
Now before the pitchforks come out and the crazies start piling up wood up to roast me at the stake … let me be extra clear. Any child in this nation that needs a meal …. at any moment … anywhere … should be generously fed in the most dignified fashion.
This is not about the chronically poor … or those unable to cut it in this society … for whatever reason. Those citizens … and especially the children in those circumstances … deserve our intense attention and all of our compassion and generosity.
But if we can now determine the “grit” level of a 7 year old … or the “rigor” capacity of preteen … shouldn’t we be able to determine exactly who needs this sort of compassion and assistance?
And who’s fleecing the generosity of this society?
The political class has screwed the weakest among us.
But if you make that point, you’ll get slammed. The PC crowd will crush you. Not because you’re wrong, but because you’ve disturbed their ideology. Upset their con. Exposed the dependency they’ve created to further their own ends.
Too much of real life … the routine, the essential, the everyday … has been lifted from too many people. And with very bad consequences.
Real life isn’t terribly glamorous. It’s a lot of mundane and humdrum … punctuated by moments of delight and disappointment … some exquisitely juicy and others wincingly awful.
That’s real life … and folks sing songs about it. And anyone who tries to substitute make-believe for real life is making trouble. And pushing us to a very bad ending.
This is an interesting part of this free-lunch narrative …
“ … food-policy advocates point out, kids can be real bastards at that age — students get bullied for not paying the full $1.75 rate, and as a result they’ll sometimes choose not to eat at all.”
Where are the parents? The peanut butter and jelly makers? Who’d let their child endure that sort of embarrassment? Who is so inattentive NOT to hop on that situation like a tiger? How did they get that way? And why are they so … so disconnected from both the responsibility and the discomfort it creates for their own child?
We all know the answers, don’t we?
And it’s not just about simple lunches. There are bad cues all over this society.
Now there’s no need to learn English. Food stamps buy smokes and junk food … or worse. Chronically idle adults get extra-miffed if they might be required to work a bit for their own sustenance … while flashing expensive jewelry and $700 iPhones.
No one in this society is fooled.
Some will try and guilt others … or tattoo ‘em with this or that nasty label. But we know that people are creatures of habits. Good and bad habits. And America has a lazy habit of not calling this stuff out.
It’s human nature to find the easy way out. To favor the softest solution. But that’s not healthy for any society. Not In the long run. It’ll poison us all.
I know it’s dangerous to lay down rules for others … and I’m probably in for a beating. But if we don’t start making our own beds again … we’re all headed for a bad moment.
And those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? They might be the start of our salvation.
Admiral Bill McRaven Navy SEAL Full Commencement Speech