So last week I asked the literary (and cinematic) question, “What then must we do?”
Over the weekend, I got the answer, or, at least an answer. Two answers really.
The first came in the form of a NY Times story about an employer in Seattle who decided to make a big change in his employees standard of living by funding a substantial company pay increase by dumping his own million plus salary.
What I find most interesting about this story is not so much the action of the CEO, but the reaction by some of his employees, customers, and other Seattle business people. This well meaning entrepreneurs’s actions have elicited reactions that range from mild astonishment (and support) to anger, and in the case of the entrepreneur’s brother and business partner, a lawsuit.
Taking action – personal action – to ease the burden of others, or even just to make their day a little brighter, seems to make a lot of people angry. The guy even drew the self-aggrandizing ire of professional radio asshole Rush Limbaugh, who called him a Socialist (which is not only clearly untrue, but a perfect illustration of how little The Bum Rush understands about either history or economics).
The very basic lesson of this story is that people can do amazing things if they simply decide to do them. The second lesson is clearly a perfect illustration of the old adage that “no good deed goes unpunished.” What’s most significant to me is the fact that this Seattle CEO did what he felt was right for no other reason that it felt right and after the inevitable blow back, he chose to stick to his position and weather the storm.
What he did took imagination, courage and chutzpah. Ironically, these are the same characteristics he demonstrated in creating his business in the first place.
The second answer came this morning in a story from the SF Chronicle. It’s actually a follow up to one of the stories I wrote about last week. The story of how one mother reached out to another mother and, in so doing, bridged the gap of pain and alienation and eased the suffering of both. It is a story of how the mother of a little girl who was mudered, reached out and embraced the pain of the mother of the boy who murdered her daughter. It’s a story of loss and grief and pain and compassion and it’s another example of how the world can be if we can somehow get in touch with the fact that we share this journey and we share each other’s pain.
So… there you have it, a look at possibilities in the midst of struggle, and compassion in the midst of pain.
Just two examples of what can be done if we choose to do something. Two examples of the crack that lets the light in.
Where do you see the daylight?
My father-in-law does this thing: He throws up one hand in the STOP position and declares “NOT my problem!” His expression is a combination of consternation and exhilaration, as if the sheer act of declaring a boundary gave a shot of endorphin. His refusal to get involved or help could be about world hunger, global warming, child trafficking or the neighbor whose daughter has cancer and can’t afford medical bills. It could be about a piece of litter in the street or the fact that the homeowner’s association board needs a volunteer. “Not my Problem” is a badge of honor. It says: I take care of my OWN. I don’t over-commit. I stay in my lane. I mind my own business. I see this more and more….to me? These are fighting words….it’s my hungry belly, my dying planet, my child, my neighbor, my street, my litter…all of it is my problem and THAT is why I volunteer.
Love to read more of your writing