Every morning I lie in bed and listen to NPR and hear reports on how many people in this country have lost their jobs, and I force myself to get out of bed with a single thought, “At least I still have a job.” But when I was hovering around rock bottom just a couple weeks ago, I was convinced that I was about to lose my job, and I think that I was actually doing things to bring about my own unemployment. I have a tendency to over-relate to the woes of the world. During Hurricane Katrina and its horrifying aftermath, I sat in front of my TV and cried a million tears, distraught with guilt for having a warm, dry house with enough food in it to sustain me for a least a week, a closet-full of clothes that were clean and dry.
Why is this world so filled with inequities? Why are some of us lucky enough to still have a job, a house, a car, a meal, even pets to keep us happy? While others have or are in the process of losing their homes, their jobs, and are having to stand in line at soup kitchens or food banks simply to get a meal? Why them and not me? I imagine that those people who are being evicted from their homes or standing in line for free food are asking the same question in reverse – why or how are others managing during these troubled times while I am not? Why does my neighbor still leave home every morning and go to what I can only assume is a job? Why did I get laid-off and the guy in the cubicle next to me did not?
One on the first truths we learn as children is that life is not fair. After accepting that basic truth – the population basically breaks into two very different groups who take very divergent paths in life. One group accepts the unfairness of life and goes on to take advantage of the inequality in the world and makes the moves that help them do the best that they can, earn as much money as they can, and basically set themselves up in the best situation that they can find for themselves. The other group sees the inequities in the world and dedicate themselves to working to make the world a fairer place. As always, these groups are not mutually exclusive and at various times in a person’s life she/he may change from one group to another. However, there are certain professions that lend themselves to making the world a more equitable place. Some of those careers include teachers, social workers, doctors, and in some cases even lawyers. Yet including the last profession in that list illustrates how it is impossible to assess a person’s contribution to the greater good by considering his/her job alone. Good people do all kinds of work – from computer programmers to comedians – there are all kinds of jobs that can add to hope and justice in this world. It is largely the person who does the job and the attitude that he/she brings to her/his work that makes the difference between creating a world that is just and equitable and those whose primary concern is to just advance themselves and their own interests.
Hedge fund managers verses Red Cross workers – the contrast between these two groups of people may seem obvious to most of us. The former screams self-interest and greed, the latter is the embodiment of selfless, caring concern for others. Yet I am almost certain that there are one or two hedge fund managers who use their monetary gains to help others (I am only guessing, I don’t know this for sure), and there are probably a few Red Cross workers who volunteer for dubious reasons (although I can’t for the life of me imagine what those reasons might be).
Another case in point in the position of the President of the United States - in the case of George W. Bush his motivation (as evidenced by his life lived up to the point when he stole the presidency) was greed and promotion of causes that benefited only the company he keeps, in other words, the wealthiest Americans. Whereas Barack Obama’s motivation (I believe, anyway) is to help the most people in the world, not the wealthiest people in this country. I have taken to referring to President Obama as a president savant (from the French savant "knowing", English since the 18th century, may refer to an expert or wise person). I have come to believe that Barack Obama and his beautiful family are uniquely suited to be the first family at this time in our history. After eight long years of collective suffering, we (as Americans) got something correct – we chose the best person for the job. I, for one, would have liked to see fewer Clinton retreads in Obama’s administration, but I do understand the value of institutional knowledge and memory, and I trust that Obama won’t be afraid to drop dead weight when it floats like scum to the surface during his time in office.
I also think that Obama’s trip to Europe tells us volumes about the difference between those whose actions are motivated by what is best for the most people (Obama) and the former leader (sic) (Bush) who clearly didn’t give a rat about what would be best for the world. People know when a leader is genuine and honest and has their best interest at heart. They hear concern in Obama’s words and see it in his gestures and they can tell from the way his wife looks at him that he is a real leader, one who desperately wants to improve the lives of everyone and restore hope and justice in the world.
Before I am accused of being nothing more than an Obama groupie, I must say that I am waiting along with all the other citizens of this country and the world with my fingers crossed, hoping against hope that the Stimulus Program works. If it doesn’t I am braced for the hot air that will blow in from the right and try to replace our hopes and dreams with fear and bigotry. Yet I will refuse to abandon my hopes and dreams, I will never take the path of greed and selfishness. I always hope to walk on the path that serves myself best by serving others, always keeping in mind that we are all in this together.