What defines a person is his job. Plain and simple. When two unknown people meet, one of the first questions in getting acquainted is: “What do you do?” – or variations of this. The answer the interrogator wants has little to do with salsa dancing, soccer on weekends or amateur dentistry in your garage. This question concerns your actual profession, which can be difficult to reply if you have signed confidentiality agreements with your clients or are employed by the security services – I could tell you but then I'd have to… terminate you. Upon figuring out this person’s employment, the potential future relationship will be based on earnings: does this individual make more than I do? Should I be hanging out with this person? The old rule of “tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are” is in full effect. The work-play balance has tipped into a depth where play does not account for defining who you are yet when we leave this Earth, we take nothing material with us. At least, so I have heard - I'm planning on being buried with my car and bling.
The truth is, there are not many societies out there on our planet where you will find individuals from every social division – they really do divide us, don’t they? – gathered in a common living room. There are not many long-standing relationships crossing these financial boundaries. Perhaps if we did put them all in the same room, we might notice the better off specimen constantly looking over their shoulder wondering, “hmmm… are my material possessions safe with these commoners around?” The humble guest ponders silently: “I wonder if the others will think I am a freeloader.” We tend to accentuate these differences more than we give ourselves credit for. In many countries, it is not uncommon to find an affluent family sitting around their dinner table, blessing the food they are about to receive and in this daily monologue finding something like: “God, please provide for the poor.” Maybe the good Lord – or whatever your higher power is – has a lot on his or her plate and we can do something to lend a hand to our fellow beings.
When I attended Roosevelt High School, I did partake in community service activities – not as often as I would have liked – and I strongly believe in the value of this involvement as an enriching experience for our youth. It is never too early to learn to give. We can quickly realize we are better off than others. If we have no old articles of clothing, are strapped for cash, or whatever excuse we may come up with, we can always volunteer some manpower – womanpower is just as useful. Sometimes, just being present is a beginning of a miracle and makes a difference to the one in need. There are organizations in our neighbourhoods and beyond where we can help make our own communities to become richer and safer places through volunteering and support. If there are none of these, you have yet to genuinely do some justice to your research. Even then, maybe you commence your own local project. Outside my local supermarket, employees are ordered to toss out excess stock considered not to be “fresh” anymore from fears of cross-contamination. Instead of letting this food get consumed or donated to some aid organizations, the garbage truck hauls it off to some faraway landfill. I guess it is much better to dispose of something if you cannot run a profit in their business mission statement. When I realized this I was outraged, especially considering that food banks in Toronto are alarmingly under stocked.
As we get older, we tend to become more conservative. At that point, we figure that if we helped those in need, they would not do anything for themselves. We are convinced that everything we achieved in our lifetime was done so on our own blood, sweat and tears. “Nobody helped ME,” you will hear with misguided pride. We cannot afford to become victims of this tunnel vision. People that share this belief figure that by lending a helping hand, the receiver would just loaf around with all their collected free stuff and do nothing to better himself or herself. Although this may be somewhat true, it is not up to us to decide for others. Some settle perhaps due to low personal standards or lack that fire that fuels passion, but not everyone is lazy. Give someone a chance to shine, to believe in themselves and they may feel reborn to take on the brave new world. Perhaps they are down on their luck and just cannot seem to get out of that funk no matter what it is they try to do. I am sorry to bring this up once more but look at the Eurozone gone broke. We all suffer collectively in bailing them out for being irresponsible. We have all been there at one point in our lives to some extent, so I think it is not too hard to put some shoes on, slip out the door and see what we can do outside to improve our communities.
|Some soccer-playing monkeys to lighten the mood|
In the industrialized world, we are encouraged to help the children in Kenya, donate to flood victims in Sri Lanka or buy an endangered howler monkey from the jungles of Peru. Many of these agencies generally take the donations to pay their staff so they can travel to far away places, snap some pictures and come back to build a catalogue. How much really goes to Pablo, the poor poster child and his family? We often overlook the problems in our own neighbourhood. There are kids in our communities who go to school on an empty stomach. There are people who are avoided just because they have been laid off and judged useless by the new market, so we share the same disregard for them. There are street people you walk or drive by while you pretend to be looking for house keys as you listen to your iPod. I often advocate taking care of our problems at home before venturing beyond. How can we expect to be a model for society if mom and dad are always arguing, or if Jack does not take out the trash? We can all make a difference one at a time.