"Never let the things you can't do stop you from doing what you can do." .. Ronald Reagan
Like two ships passing in the night, a old man taught a young one how saving a penny of operating expense was like frosting on the profit line. Little did they both know that this moment in 1940 would portend a changing of the guard in the leadership of the American Retail Industry.
Since both James Cash Penny and Samuel Moore Walton were Christian, left sizable private foundations for either religious projects (Penny) or for funding scholarships and expenses to advance the spreading of the Gospel (Walton), it is appropriate to revisit that moment in their lives and to reflect upon the life of each before another generation forgets both. As most people judge a person like book, usually by their wealth, power or social position, perhaps this reflection will frame a little of what lay within their hearts.
James Cash Penny's Story
Although the terrible events of his childhood probably motivated his passion for self-improvement and success, James Cash Penny became a man ahead of his time, seeing opportunities in changing the system that all others used as a business model and then going ahead with doing it. Through his vision, JC Penny Company (following the Golden Rule Stores) became that new model. Like most of America, he was not easily identified as a Christian, but when the Stock Market Crash of 1929 took his health and wealth, he came to Christ. It was while he was gravely ill in a Sanitarium when he heard the old Hymn ""God Will Take Care Of You", being sung in the chapel that James became a born-again Christian.*
Penny finally did join a church at age 70 (he was the son of the Baptist pastor in Hamilton, MO who had been discharged for wanting to start a Sunday school, which soured James on churches), but he was a true Christian from the day he was born again, and his strong commitment to the Christian principles that he tried to incorporate into his business remain with us today within the American business model.
His strong support of religious, scientific and educational projects was funded through his creation of the JC Penny Foundation. This is how he was best remembered with the passage of time.
God Will Take Care Of You - Hymn lyrics:
"Be not dismayed whate'er betide,
God will take care of you.
All you need he will provide,
God will take care of you."
"I have found that unselfishness pays because it tends to engender selfishness" .. James Cash Penny
* James Cash Penny Jr. - Wikipedia
The Brief Meeting Between These Two Men:
During 1940, JC Penny was visiting his JC Penny store at Des Moines, Iowa, when he stopped at the package station to watch a young man wrapping packages for a customer.** He would have addressed the young man with something like this "I want to show you how I wrap a package," and then did so using quite a bit less paper and ribbon than young Sam did. He probably would have added "this is how we do it at JC Penny, and so will you from now on."
Young Sam Walton had just gotten a lesson in efficiency and frugality from the man who had revolutionized the retail industry,"* and who was the richest man in America, yet who would track the cost of everything down to the most minor of details. Sam never forgot that, and during his 18 months with Pennys, he read everything he could on "discount" retailing, learned from Penny's best people and continued honing his sales and marketing skills. America would soon be remembering two retail giants.
**"Made in America" by Sam Walton
Samuel Moore Walton's Story:
Sam left the JC Penny Co to go to war and serve his country as a Captain in Military Intelligence, then return to retail where he started his first stores with borrowed money. He was certainly well qualified with his BA Degree in Economics from MU, having also been elected President of their Bible Association and having distinguished himself as an R.O.T.C. Cadet Officer and member of the National Military Honor Society.
He still had the same passion for changing the retail industry as James Cash Penny did in his time, and he had the same focus upon costs as well, including discounting, displaying and distribution costs, but unlike Penny, he could and would talk to anyone, and usually leave them smiling.
This same young man who had been personally taught the "proper JC Penny way" to wrap a customer's package, would end up being the next retail leader who would change how retail was done in America when he founded Walmart and Sam's Club. And like JC Penny, he too became one of "the richest in America" in doing so.
They say that the Body of Christ is truly diverse and that its members represents all facets of believers, from rich to poor, and from common to extraordinary. Sam Walton found his calling in serving those of the Bible Belt and improved their lives by lowering the cost of the products they depended upon. He had faith, passion, boundless energy and a purpose, and it followed that every aspect of his continuing success fell into line from there.
Sam was much more concerned with people than with amassing a fortune, although he did happily share it with others***. Even as one of the richest men in the world (estate roughly valued at $60-100 Billion when he passed in 1992), Sam had tried to live a simple life whenever he could and to walk in the Spirit as a Christians stride. (He had accepted Christ as his Personal Savior as a youth in Missouri.)
(*** Although Sam Walton and the Walton family commonly voiced their religious beliefs, Sam gave an extraordinary amount of support for the spreading of the Gospel through providing college scholarships for foreign students to attend USA Christian Universities and by establishing an sizable annual endowment within the Presbyterian Church for the spreading of the Gospel.) - Sam Walton, Conservapedia.com - 12/20/2018
Some would disagree concerning Mr. Sam Walton, but many may find a good and lifelong lesson to gather here: not to size a person up by their wealth or success in this world, but look to their heart. Have they accepted Christ as their Personal Savior? If so, then they are more than conquerors.
"Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They're absolutely free and worth a fortune." .. Sam Walton
"Sam Walton remained the same; a humble man focused on helping others. He lived a clean life and was a man whose handshake you can rely on in any kind of deal" .. Vance H. Trimble
"You can learn from everybody." .. Sam Walton