Brett wanted to know more about Eric Greitens. Ben deferred to me to tell the Greitens story. I went through the usual, remarkable life of a man, eleven years my junior, a century my senior. I told him about Duke, boxing, Bosnia, Rwanda, Mother Teresa. I told him about boxing at Oxford and becoming a SEAL.
Nothing from Brett.
"Really," I thought. "How stuck-up is this guy?"
But we didn't give up.
Ben told him about The Mission Continues. Ben told the story of a paralyzed veteran who wanted to teach kids with cancer to ride horses.
Nothing. Brett was polite, and all. I'm not saying that. But he wasn't moved. I could tell.
So I tried another story.
"Tim came home from the Army and went through some tough times." I tried to cut to the chase. "The Army didn't prepare him for much in the civilian world, but they taught him how to clean. The military teaches everyone how to clean."
Brett looked interested, so I went on.
"Tim was one of the first Fellows at The Mission Continues. He started to clean offices by himself. He went back to school. Now he has like forty-seven employees cleaning offices around St. Louis."
For emphasis, I pulled out Tim Smith's Patriot Cleaning business card, waving it like a stage magician.
Brett raised his right hand to stop me. "That's the story," he said.
Ben and I looked at each other like two cats when the cricket they've been batting around stops moving.
"So, the humanitarian stuff and being a Navy SEAL doesn't mean anything, but a guy cleaning offices does?"
"Absolutely," Brett said. "Nobody cares what you've done. We heard all that bullshit from John Kerry and McCain. People out here care about what you're doing and what you're going to do."
Brett is about twenty-three. He's a cog in the largest generation in American history. His opinion matters.
"We all came to this country to work, not to live off other people. That's the story that matters. This guy [Eric Greitens] puts people to work."
I've written a couple thousand words about Eric Greitens, and a guy at a bar reduced it all to six: Eric Greitens puts people to work.
That's my new story of Eric Greitens: this guy puts people to work.
P.S. Tim Smith is for real. His company, Patriot Cleaning, employs veterans. You can reach them at www.patriotcleaning.net.