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Thursday, June 6, 2013

"Island" is not a place. It's a way of life.

I just decided to ride my bike to a local, family owned market for some ice cream. I was cranky, having some pretty mean and extremely annoyed thoughts about a friend and was intending to self-soothe with some fat and sugar. As I leave my bike (unattended and not locked up) outside, I notice the truck in the parking lot was left running, also unattended. Walking in, I see that the owner of the truck is also at the ice cream counter. He is headed to the register as I walk over. "Hey, come here!" he says to me. He hands his waffle cone to me and says, "Here. Hold this. I gotta get my money out to pay!" We made small talk for a minute while he waited to pay as the store owner had taken a call from her family. After he paid, he asked me what I was getting. I told him and he handed the owner the money for my ice cream, too! He says, “Thanks for holding my ice cream! Take care!” and heads out. Back at the ice cream counter, I put the money I had planned to spend on my ice cream into the tip jar and the store owner put an extra scoop on my cone. There are a couple lessons here...

First, don’t assume that the first person to come upon unattended property is going to steal it. It’s just not the case. I think we have lost a lot of trust and faith in each other as people; surely this is due mostly to social platitudes and media influence than direct personal experience. I know many people who scoff and shake their heads because I don’t have ADT Total Home Security System installed at my house, chain link fences surrounding the yard and cops circling the neighborhood (who, really, would do nothing more than hand out parking tickets anyway...). When visiting friends of such mindsets, I’ve got to confess that I feel LESS secure in their "locked down" and "safe" homes than I do when I'm alone in my old, unlocked house at night (with my unlocked car parked outside with the keys in the ignition). 

It makes me scratch my head to think that often these are the same people who are so opposed to private ownership of personal weapons. They are also the same people who hate capitalism and scream for “social justice, “equality” and “social change,” but continue shopping at places like Wal-Mart who are well known for their gross mistreatment of employees, discriminatory hiring and promotional practices and for encouraging their workers to become dependent on the state and federal government in order to have their basic needs met. I want to shake them and say, “Don’t hate capitalism. Use it to your advantage. No one is forcing you to shop at that store. If you truly want your voice heard, ‘hit them where it counts’ - in the pocketbook.” Of course, there is always some excuse (“price” and “convenience” being the biggest ones I’ve heard). These are the people who continue to vote for big government and expect handouts and freebies - at the expense of “others.” 

Second, and this is a big one, doing things for others with no expectation of repayment can be fulfilling in and of itself. However, there can be unexpected benefits that will allow us to do more for each other and “share the wealth,” so to speak. It is not forced. It should not be forced. I know the man who paid for my ice cream worked hard for his money, I know I work hard for mine and the store owner works hard for hers. We all three shared something that was ours, no one felt robbed, and all were pleased with the outcome. I feel that if the general public could grasp and extrapolate this concept to other areas, our social welfare system would all but “reform” itself. It doesn’t take an over-priced post-graduate degree to understand this. 

“It’s not that simple!” many will cry. Perhaps it isn’t that simple at this point. We are so entrenched and reliant on big government; we have been so conditioned that camping out on major banking thoroughfares and sleeping in our own feces for weeks on end in the name of “the 98%” is the way to change things. The individual locus of control seems to be so external that people have given up their most powerful voice: choice. The choice to help someone in need because it’s the RIGHT thing to do. The choice to shop at a local grocer over a major chain and perhaps pay a few pennies more, but have the peace of mind knowing that the employees at that establishment are well taken care of. The choice to do right by each other and respect others’ property, to respect others’ basic human rights. Taking out the media inflation, porked up social policies, and removing the blame of the “others” is something this American culture is starved for. We need to reclaim our power, our individual responsibility, our voice, our humanity.  

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