One important piece of our American Way is how we treat each other. But there are some in America today who would want to convince us that we should think first of ourselves and that “nice guys” finish last. Oh Really! Considered the story of James Cash Penney.


James Penney was born in 1875 and grew up on a small farm in Kentucky. But his family fell on to hard times when his father lost his job, and as a teenage boy, James had to quit school and to work to help support his family. James Penny had learned early on from his parents the great need to be self-reliant, self-dependent, 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 the determined spirit of Faith in God and a heart to treat other people kind in fair, James Penney entered the world of business. He began to work as a store clerk, and faithfully contributing his earnings to his family’s needs. Eventually, he did finish his schooling and after finishing high school, he worked several jobs until he moved to Colorado and bought a butcher shop – and Penny’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 Penney never regretted standing for his own convictions. In 1899, 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”, and Penny’s philosophy for his new store was to treat customers the way he would want to be treated himself, to charge a fair price for quality merchandise, and to charge one price to all customers.


In 1904. He opened another store and then another until July 1912 when James Penney had a chain of 34 stores. By now he had established what he called the “Penny idea”, 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, that JC Penney stores we all know and love started with one small boy’s foundational belief and conviction to treat people, all people with respect and dignity, and with God’s help to serve others. Years later, Penny explained,

“In setting up a business under the name of the Golden Rule, I was publicly binding myself and my business relations to a Principal which had been a real and intimate part of my family upbringing. The sign on the store was much more than a trade name. Our idea was to make money and build business through serving the community with fair dealings and honest values”.


Wow, what a testimony. When we look at the life of James Cash Penney, it shows us clearly, not only did he know the “American Way” – but he also lived it!


And that’s the story of James Cash Penney. Try walking by using the Golden Rule as you Example, then see how it works!


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