A couple of weeks ago, I found myself sitting at the corner of Freedom Street and Capitalism Boulevard, right in the middle of what seemed to be the Occupy Commerce movement. During the roughly 10 minutes of my sit-in, though, it was apparent that this movement was more than simply some people occupying a place, it was a way of life that involved the true spectrum of occupation as only occurs regularly in America.
Indeed, the setting was quintessentially Americana in the modern era – a large, new, sleek, upscale hotel and conference center, squarely at the hub of a city that has been reinvented in recent decades – Indianapolis. The scene was bustling with people of all colors and ethnicities. There were the young, the old, and the middle-aged, like me. Business people in big boy and big girl clothes heading to an annual awards dinner shared the grand hallways with couples vacationing, enjoying the fruits of their labor, and with high school students visiting the Midwestern metropolis for a religious-oriented convention.
Some of the participants in this movement moved quickly by our small (two-person) temporary sit-in. A few, however, slowed down to converse with my newly found friend, Jerry, and me. We spoke of the weather, the evening ahead, our families and, of course, business.
A handful of the passers-by, some Catholic student conventioneers, actually took photos of my new friend, our host Vivian, and me. The kids were full of energy, taking in their surroundings, awkwardly moving through the setting of adults on their own journey to adulthood. What the students were capturing in their own photography was not celebrity or even one of the numerous and beautiful sites of downtown Indy. What the students were capturing with the latest of the digital medium, their cell phones/cameras/internet devices, was something as simple as two men, one woman and two chairs.
At first I found this youthful paparazzi to be odd, then humorous and then hopeful. Whether these polite young adults intended to eventually use the photos to mark and remember their days in the city or simply post their visual art and add funny, snarky comments to share with their friends, this movement caught their attention. Perhaps in a really small, but significant way, these youngsters were digitizing for posterity an element of their own aspirations that captured their attention.
Let me explain: What caught the attention of the teens was something pretty simple – a small business, its proprietor and two guys in suits, enjoying a brief respite and the luxury of a shoeshine. Watching these kids who were capturing and even participating in this scene was inspiring as I thought of the background stories around me.
As we sat comfortably at the shoeshine stand, Jerry, a well-known and well-respected leader of business and philanthropy engaged our fellow capitalist, Vivian, with conversation. While polite and friendly, Jerry’s assiduous enquiry was deeper than the usually forgettable small talk. He asked Vivian, or “V” as she prefers, about her business. How did she get started? How long had she been in business? At what times of day or week was business best? Did she have plans for expansion?
Listening to the banter of these two business people, the sole-proprietor entrepreneur and the CEO whose business claims the name of a skyscraper, was inspirational — he with gracious, yet penetrating business questions, she with fast, detailed, proud answers. His questions and exchanges reflected the respect he inspires in those who know him well and those who know only of him. Her answers were inspirational because they reflected countless stories that have preceded hers – stories founded on the principles of hard work, risk taking, and the desire to improve one’s own lot in life.