While most others in his situation would give up and give in — become wards of the state by collecting collect welfare, food stamps, etc. — 56-year-old James Robertson refuses. He has too much pride. He is making his way on $10.55 per hour working at an industrial plastic molding plant, making plastic components for the automotive industry.
Okay, that’s not particularly unique, but this is. Mr. Robertson walks 21 miles round-trip per day, five days a week, to get to that job. And this is not like walking that distance in Miami. This is Detroit, where the weather is brutal at times, and so are the neighborhoods. James has been mugged once but prefers not to discuss it.
He trudges over 100 miles every week in some of the worst winter conditions imaginable. The Detroit Free Press reported that Robertson once did own a car, a 1988 Honda Accord, but it died 10 years ago.
So for the last 10 years, James Robertson has been walking to work. He works the 2 PM to 10 PM shift at the plant and says he loves his job and the people he works with. Unfortunately there is no bus service that can take him where he needs to go.
His boss at Schain Mold and Engineering told the Free Press that “I set our attendance standard by this man. I say, if this man can get here, walking all those miles through snow and rain, well, I’ll tell you, I have people in Pontiac 10 minutes away and they say they can’t get here – bull! He’s never missed. I’ve seen him come in here wringing wet.”
In case you read that too quickly, his boss said “he’s never missed,” meaning James Robertson has not missed a single day of work. Not one!
Robert says he can survive any situation. “It’s extremely tiring, no question about it, but it’s also the will to do it.” He averages about two hours of sleep per night and sleeps a lot on the weekend but says he “can’t imagine not working.”
He says that by the time Friday rolls around he is mentally and physically drained, and at those moments he must pull something extra out of himself. He repeats the old saying, “If there is a will there is a way.” It’s something he’s never forgotten.
On how he does it, Robertson says, “I keep a rhythm in my head. I’m not saying I’m a member of some church. But just before I get home, every night, I say, Lord, keep me safe.”
The Free Press reports that Robertson says that “It’s not just the $1700 monthly paycheck that lures him back to work each day but the very essence of being around his friendly coworkers whom he calls family.” Evidently the boss’s wife has also taken a liking to him, preparing a home-cooked meal for James each evening.
Mr. Robertson’s story has attracted many generous individuals. One such is a student at Wisconsin State University, Evan Leedy, a computer science major. He said he was so moved by Mr. Robertson’s story that he set up a GoFundMe site to elicit donations to help the man. His target was $5000.
As I write this, I see that the fund has raised over $69,000 to go directly to Mr. Robertson. A nearby car dealership, Rogers Chevrolet in Woodhaven Wisconsin, has offered to give Mr. Robertson a 2014 Chevrolet Cruz or Sonic.
Angela Osborne, customer service specialist at the dealership, said “He gets to choose. We were just impressed with his determination.”
We should all be impressed with his determination. This is the true and quintessential American spirit — never give up — never quit — never say die.
It says a lot of not only the never surrender spirit of James Robertson, but also the giving spirit of the most generous people on Earth, the American citizen.
If you too wish to make a donation to help James Robertson, you may click here.