Atlas Coney Island was a booming place in 1980.  Three Greek men had opened the restaurant on Corunna Road in Flint Michigan. The twenty four hour business did so well that the owners sold their business and move back to Greece, “like kings” they told my Dad.  When my Dad arrived in Flint from Bouf, Macedonia in 1956, Jimmy, one of the brothers/brother-in-law, was one of the first people my dad met at the International Institute where many new  immigrants came to learn English. Over the years my dad (also named Jimmy) would see Jimmy, here and there each of them eventually partnered up with family and bought their own restaurant. When the three brothers decided to sell, Jimmy called my dad and asked him to come over to the restaurant to talk to him. My dad went to Atlas, sat down with the guys and they told him they wanted to sell. My dad was looking to buying a new restaurant.  He and my Uncle David had been in the restaurant for about twenty years or so.  At the time they owned a Steak House and were considering a faster pace, quicker turn over business, like a Coney Island. The Greek Community was and still is a very close knit community, much like the Macedonians.  My Dad told me that before the sale happened, the Greek Priest and a few prominent members of the community, paid the three brothers a visit at Atlas to try to pursued them to sell to members of their own community. The owners were set on selling to my Dad. They would be leaving the country, and since the business was sold in a “land contract” agreement, they wanted to sell to someone they had confidence in who would run the business well enough that they would be able to pay them back, and they wouldn’t have to get a business back, not very appealing to them in their situation.  My Dad had a very good reputation as a hard worker, a good business owner and an upstanding guy.  People liked my Dad because he was a very kind man. They started talking in March of that year and on June 1, just weeks before my high school graduation, the deal was done.  

     A few days after graduation, I went to the uniform store to purchase my two-piece orange polyester uniform. I bought my white working shoes and I started my summer job as a waitress before going off to college in September. On a busy lunch hour one of my first days I had a quick question for my dad who happened to be in his office. I remember him being on the phone. He was ending the conversation. He was shaking his head and I said what’s wrong. He said, “I’ll tell you later.” I asked my question. He answered and I went back onto the floor to take care of my customers. A little while later, Jimmy came in through the front door, and then went through the swinging doors to the back to talk to my dad. On the way home from work that day I asked my dad why Jimmy came in. My Dad told me had found a large bag of money in the office while he was cleaning it out.  He had called Jimmy to tell him that he found something of his. My dad called him into the office, handed him the bag Jimmy laughed as he opened it and he said to my Dad, “I knew I sold this place to the right man.” 

     This story was told in an older blog post about my Dad and Uncle in the Coney Island business.  Over the years, I have thought about it and it really sums up my Dad’s character and taught me one of the most important lessons in life, “The Golden Rule,” to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

     Jimmy Todorovsky was born and raised in a small town of Bouf, Macedonia. For much of his life, there was war in turmoil in that part of the world. It was so bad that most of the people in his small village, which would now be considered northern Greece, left for Melbourne Australia, Toronto, Hamilton and Windsor, Canada and Flint, Michigan. Life had been rough during the turbulent times. There were limited opportunities for education so these people had very little formal education.  The training and learning that most of the citizens of Bouf came from their mothers and grandparents.  Many if not most of the fathers were either off fighting in the war if they were young or if they were beyond fighting age, they traveled to where they had decided their family would immigrate to, they worked, saved, sent money to their family back in Bouf and eventually, once settled with a job and a small house, their remaining family would join them.  Families raised by a single mom, poverty, poor nutrition, war, little formal education all factors most would consider to set one up for failure.  However, these poor peasants had the things that were important, their faith, a strong moral compass, a good work ethic, extended family support, and a cowboy spirit to travel to unknown lands willing to do what it took, to take care of their families.  Bouf was a tight knit community and to date, there is a Facebook page made up of some who were children at the time,  a few of the old timers, now in their late eighties and nineties, are still around.  I look forward to the black and white photos from days gone by and I occasionally contribute and look forward to reading comments.  Some have traveled back and the this date, the community is still close.  If I had to say what the common thread running through Bouf and what made those citizens successful in that they raised good faithful families, who travelled to far away places and made a good life for those they love.  Their successes build new churches in their communities kept their culture alive (long sentence, sorry) I would have to say, they lived the Golden Rule, “Do unto other as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12).   My father and his brother, Kosta were the recipients of that among others who came across hard times.  When their mother died when they were children, and their father was here making a life for them, they were taken in by extended family members who barely had enough food for their own. Until the day my father, he spoke of those kind angels who cared for them.  There was little to no crime committed by the citizens of Bouf.  Partisans from the civil war of Greece and Macedonia and German soldiers from WWII were the only once responsible for violence or fear.  

     The people of Bouf, and other communities world wide were responsible for raising good people who had somewhat common values.  The immigrants who came to and settled this country over the years brought these common values to the United States. Since our inception as a country we have prospered because of these mavericks who brought their goodness, values, strong faith, and stellar work ethic. These people built this country and made it a place others looked up to and they inspired others to come here, the land of opportunity.  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was the common thread of these people.     

     When the number of those who do not follow the law grows and when there is an increase in citizens who do not treat others the way they would hope to be treated, we all are at risk.  It used to be that crime was something that didn’t happen often.  Crime is one of the biggest problems facing our country.  There is a lack of respect for law and law enforcement.  We see more and more police officers who are victims of crime themselves.  Just a few days ago, a police officer here in Michigan was shot on a traffic stop.  A young man, husband and father of three with his  wife expecting their fourth child.  A few weeks ago it was a young police officer in New York who was gunned down leaving a young wife and infant son.  

     Next week we celebrate the Fourth of July, Independence Day, when our Founding Fathers signed our country’s  Declaration of Independence from the King of England.  Our Founders were clear, we were One Nation, Under God.  Under God, means that we are accountable to God for our actions.  Most people would say that they follow the Ten Commandments, God’s Laws for his people.  The Golden Rule basically sums up the Ten Commandments.  God is on every monetary bill. God is what we all had in common, citizens followed the law of God and that’s what kept our citizens in line.  Like many people, I feel that when I get up in the morning, when I raised my kids, I take my marching orders from God. As a parent, I always felt and still do that I am accountable to God.  When I was a teacher, of course I followed the objectives and goals of what the school system I worked for established. I had to teach to the objective set up for each grade I taught.  In addition to that, there was an accountability to my students to prepare them for the next grade, to their parents, to myself to do a good job, but really, I was accountable to God to do what was best for these children.  Most of the teachers I worked with, I would guess, had a similar feeling of accountability. 

     When a country is made up of individuals who are accountable to God, who follow the golden rule, we all are drinking the same “Kool-aid” so to speak. When it doesn’t, we all are in trouble.  Look at the crimes over the past few years, a twelve year old girl, tortured and left for dead by two young men, a young man in his prime killed on a side walk in Brooklyn, New York in front of his girlfriend on their way back from a wedding, a young Jewish  couple on their way to the hospital to give birth to their first child, killed by a hit and run driver, a young nursing college student killed while on her daily run, on and on and on…

     A government can spend money on education year after year, give handouts in phones, credit cards and housing to millions and although it may give temporary comfort of immediate needs, they do not replace the teaching of right and wrong in the home by family.  I remember hearing a lecture after I left the University of Michigan about the biggest news story NOT reported of our times, the breakdown of the family unit. What it boils down to us that when the family unity is not intact, it directly affects our society in a negative way. A family can look different to every family. We think of a mom and dad being the head of the family and in many instances, that’s true.  But an effective family can also look like a mom, dad, grandparent or grandparents in the care of children running a household with the support of extended family and the goal of raising God fearing children to live by The Golden Rule.  

     Most parents have the goal of sending their kids to college.  My thought is, if parents goal was to raise responsible kids with a strong work ethic, who treat others with respect and live by the Golden Rule, we all would fare well. Sometimes we make things too complicated.  It’s simple, you train your child up right, you imprint on their heart right from wrong and they won’t depart from it.  People who live by the Golden Rule, go out in the world and they do their job well.  They are employees who do their job with respect for their employers. They are business owners who treat their trusted employees with respect and treat them well.  They are teachers and administrators who work with parents for the well being of the child and all those in their classrooms.  They are citizens who respect the law and those who enforce it.  They are judges and attorneys who have and understanding and respect for the law and equality for all who live in the land.  It’s not that hard.  However, the greater the number of those who do not live by the Golden Rule, the harder it is to right the wrong and turn the ship around.  I want to believe optimistically, that there is hope.  Hope for a time when more people will realize the importance of the basic principles necessary to raise a child up.  Where a good moral compass is at the top of the list, after basic needs met, that parent will instill in a child the difference between right and wrong.  If a single mom in Bouf, Macedonia, with little resources  could teach a young boy to give back a bag of money that was not his to it’s rightful owner, I think it’s possible for others to do the same.

Author, Mary Yana Burau