Thursday, December 25, 2008

These things

Today, my mind is awash with thoughts of the simple things life has to offer. Perhaps it is some soft of holiday spirit I've caught. Perhaps it is simply an inflection point. Either way, I'm finding myself more and more appreciative of what surrounds me. For better or worse though, there also seems to be a part of me that is becoming more apathetic to the plight of many around me.

Lately there seems to be so many stories on the news regarding the struggles of those around us - 30 million Americans on food stamps, 1 in 5 upside down on their mortgage, and on and on. I don't wish for the suffering of these people. However, buying a $9 block of cheddar cheese last week made me give a bit more consideration to the fact that we are becoming the world's working poor. As I placed the cheese in the cart, I couldn't help but realize I'd need to work an hour at the college to pay for it. When I mentioned the story to a friend, he asked if I could imagine the grocery store asking me to stock shelves for an hour to cover the cost. Could I?

This morning I read an article that was simply too much though. It wasn't about mass layoffs, or bailouts, or the economic crises. It was about an elite New York Times best selling writer who lost all her life savings in a flash, because she put all of her retirement eggs in the basket of the disgraced investment fund manager ponzi scheme operator Bernard Madoff. In the article, Alexandra Penny goes on about how her life will be forever changed. She laments that she'll have to sell her FL cottage, layoff her maid, sell her pearls and fancy watches, and - heaven forbid - start riding the subway. She even goes so far as to say she turned to Google before bed because she "wanted know a painless way to die."

So, could I imagine stocking shelves for an hour to pay for a block of cheese? The reality is, I don't have to imagine. I simply helped students with math for an hour rather than lifting soup cans. Nevertheless, I've stocked shelves, bagged groceries, loaded semi trailers, built semi trailers, waited tables, cold called, flipped burgers, and - as a younger man - even stolen to keep warm and fed. Even now, I have my burdens, I have my debts. However, it doesn't take much more than a look around to realize this is a tough world, filled with both anguish and opportunity. I feel that I have looked at both and chosen to focus on the latter while realizing the peril of ignoring the former.

I can't imagine what the world my have in store for me by the time I am Alexandra's age. For now though, I continue to wake up breathing, I have a home, I have an amazing group of friends, I have a family and girlfriend who love me, I have my mind...and will utilize all of them to make the best of my life.

So....if I ever come to you because I'm in over my head...I hope you have the resources and willingness to help me as I would help you. But, I ever have the nerve to mention suicide because I must fire my maid and sell my cottage....punch me in the face. I won't respect you if you don't.