Wednesday, April 15, 2009

This I Believe (NPR)

I believe that we, as humans in general and as Americans specifically, are our brothers’ keeper. I believe that we are only as strong as the weakest among us, and that another’s weakness is just as much your concern as your own.

We live in a world where America consumes nearly half of the planet’s resources yet holds a small percentage of its people. As a result of this, we are responsible for how we handle our wealth and also how we react to or ignore the world’s poverty.

I have heard many say, “You have to take care of home first.” I agree. As Americans, we lived in a stratified nation. Everyone on the top tier lives in a type of excess that is nothing short of an insult to those who live on the bottom. This is evidenced in our schools, in our job market, in our consumer habits, and even in our body composition. As our president is fond of saying, the gap between Wall Street and Main Street needs to close. But I also believe that we also need to close the gap between Wall Street and no street.

A stimulus package is not going to close this gap. In fact, I don’t believe that any government funding or legislation can ever close this gap. The world is abundant in resources. The problem is not lack; it is distribution. The problem is not work ethic; it is inopportunity. The poor lack because the rich hoard. The unemployed drain federal funding because companies inbreed and overwork their own.

Change must start from the ground up. I must become a more conscious consumer. Perhaps instead of a new pair of Jimmy Choo’s, I should pay a low-income teenage boy to cut my lawn or clean my garage. Perhaps I should hire a father of four to paint my shutters. Or I could skip this year’s Caribbean cruise and take my family hiking at the national park three hours away, donating the extra money to the PTA at my neighborhood school.

I believe we are personally responsible.

America has an attachment to capitalism and free enterprise, but the market ceases to be free once it’s monopolized. I’m not suggesting communism. I am only opening the discussion for more solutions, more permeability, more elasticity.

Some say, “you reap what you sow,” and the poor just don’t work hard enough. Even if that’s true (which I don’t believe it is), why does that justify greed, gluttony, blindness to the facts? The five-year-old who gets teased for having hand-me-down clothes can not influence his parents’ occupation or lack thereof. Put yourself in perspective for a moment and consider taking a hit for the team.

I believe that all who prosper were blessed in order to be a blessing. Gifts are from the heart and they don’t require tax refunds. This I believe.

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