There are some in American today who would want to convince us that we should think first of ourselves and that “nice guys finish last”. Oh really! Consider the story of James Cash Penney.
James Penney was born in 1875 and grew up on a small farm in Kentucky. But the family fell on hard times when his father lost his job, and as a teenage boy James had to quit school and work to help support his family. But James Penny had learned early on from his parents the great need to be self-reliant, self-disciplined, and, most of all, to trust in God. But his parents had taught him something else which would help to form the very foundation of his entire life – they taught him how to treat people. His mother and father taught James to treat other people the very way he would want to be treated himself. It’s a teaching of Jesus Christ found in the Bible we all know as the “Golden Rule”.
So, armed with a determined spirit of faith in God and a heart to treat other people kind and fair, James Cash Penney as a young boy entered the world of business. He began to work as a store clerk, faithfully contributing his earnings to his family’s needs. Eventually he did finish his schooling and after finishing high school he worked a number of jobs, until he moved to Colorado and bought a butcher shop. And Penney’s own personal convictions were immediately put to the test. He was told that to keep his biggest account, a local hotel, he must deliver liquor to the hotel chef every week. Well, James did not believe in the consumption of alcohol, so he refused to make the deliveries, and he lost his biggest customer – and his business failed – but James Penny never regretted standing for his own convictions.
In 1899, James was rewarded for his hard work and tireless ambition. He was given the opportunity to partner with two men in the ownership of some small dry goods stores they called the “Golden Rule Stores”.
Penney’s philosophy for his new store was to treat customers the way he would want to be treated; to charge a fair price for quality merchandise, and to charge one price to all customers, regardless of their social status. In 1904, he opened another store and then another, until in July, 1912, James Penny had a chain of 34 stores. By now, he had established what he called “The Penney Idea”, which was, he said, “his company’s mission statement”, and the centerpiece was a promise to his customers – honor, confidence, service, and cooperation.
In 1946, James Penny retired with 1612 stores in his chain. And, of course, we all know the chain of stores – the J.C. Penney Company. You see, the J.C. Penney stores we all know and love started with one small boy’s foundation belief and conviction – to treat people, all people, with respect and dignity; to work hard, to conduct himself in a respectable way, and, with God’s Help, to serve others.
Years later, Penney explained, “In setting up a business under the name of the Golden Rule, I was publicly binding myself and my business relations to a Principle which had been a real and intimate part of my family upbringing. To me, this sign on the store was much more than a trade name. We took our slogan, ‘Golden Rule Store’, with strict literalness. Our idea was to make money and build business through serving the community with fair dealings and honest value”.
Wow, what a testimony! Wouldn’t it be great if today, all in America longed for a heart that practices the Golden Rule?
Tell me what you think.
God bless you!
About Jerry Stewart
I am a story teller. Since 1998, I have been telling the true stories of our nation and those Americans gone before us. To say the least, these stories have been well received by Americans, both young and old. So, here’s where the stories have taken me. In 1998, I was broadcasting my stories on just one radio station in Washington State. Today, from Texas 15 years later, these programs are now broadcast through a syndicated radio network to over 400 radio stations all across America, with literally millions of listeners.