Motivation for the Marketplace

Purpose in a Washpot

Oseola McCarty knows laundry. Oseola has spent over 75 of her 87 years washing other people's clothes. She lives in a simple, wood-frame house on a dusty road in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Day in and day out she has washed and ironed clothes. And, she saved her earnings.

In fact, Ms. McCarty managed to save $250,000. Last summer she donated $150,000 of her life savings to the University of Southern Mississippi to create a scholarship fund for African American students. Since announcing her decision, she has enjoyed a dinner in her honor hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus, a special reception at the university, an interview with Barbara Walters and a visit with President Clinton at the White House.

Oseola McCarty never progressed beyond the sixth grade in her own education. She lives an ultra-simple life among her friends. She has never lived without purpose. Somewhere along the way, as she washed those mountains of dirty clothes, she began to dream. Every stroke on the rub board, every load placed in a washer, every shirt hung out to dry, every dress ironed and every article neatly folded for delivery took on new meaning for her. Most likely, her vision did not come into clear focus overnight. She just wanted to help others, to make a difference in the world with her life. She started by saving what she earned. Who knows when the image of young people in need of more education captured her heart. McCarty just kept washing and saving and dreaming.

Oseola McCarty is a teacher. Here's what she's taught me about work and purpose.

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