By Troy Headrick
Before I go any further, I’d like to ask you to watch this five-minute video about an extraordinary woman named Chicago Crosby.
OK, where to begin? There’s so much I want to say. I suppose I’ll start not with Chicago but with me and us, those of us who’ve just watched her story.
I live in San Antonio, Texas, a large city not unlike New York. Almost daily I see people pushing shopping carts that look a lot like the one Chicago regular uses.
This video reminds me how often I jump to conclusions based upon what seems to be clear evidence right in front of me. For example, I see a woman collecting cans, bottles, and other throwaways and imagine that I know everything about her. I imagine that she is probably ashamed of her situation. I think that she is likely uneducated and inarticulate. I feel certain that she would almost certainly do anything to get out of the predicament she’s in—that, in fact, she thinks of her life as a “predicament.” Conversely, if I saw a handsome man dressed in a suit, wearing expensive sunshades, and driving an immaculately clean luxury automobile down the street, I would almost certainly say to myself, “That guy’s got it made.”
Of course, I know that some people who collect recyclables for a living are unhappy with their lot and are victims of a heartless capitalistic economic system that allows far too many to fall through the cracks. Also, it goes without saying that a portion of rich folks really do live ideal lives, but nothing is necessarily true because we think it to be true, because the accumulated “facts” seem to lead to a certain conclusion. All this raises at least a couple of questions: Where does such certainty come from and why do we so easily fall victim to sloppy thinking? (Of course I know the answers to both of these questions but that doesn’t diminish the importance of asking them from time to time.)
Few things in life are as simple as they appear to be. We have to continually remind ourselves not to stick people into boxes because it looks like they might easily fit in such boxes.
Chicago’s story also makes me wonder why we don’t automatically associate the concept of entrepreneurship with people like her. She developed her business model, gets up and out early, works hard, solves problems, networks, expands her customer base, and keeps abreast of political developments that affect her bottom line. If she’s not the perfect example of an entrepreneur, then I don’t know who is.
I was amazed to hear her say that her current life as a “canner” has more “substance” than her former one did. Perhaps her most powerful comment—an important reminder to us all—came right at the end of the video when talked about how nothing in life “is a certainty” and that true survivors are those who are able and willing to adapt. (Plenty of truth there.)
I’m curious what you thought about Chicago and her story. I look forward to reading your comments.
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.