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Friday, August 13, 2010

Stop the world, I want to get off.

I am living the American dream. Well, perhaps it isn't the dream of every American, but it's the dream of this one. However, it's exhausting.

A few years ago I became essentially the sole wage earner in my household, due to factors beyond the household's control. This wasn't a major concern at the time, since there were more important issues to be concerned with, such as those factors beyond our control.

Enough time has passed that our lives have returned to a sense of normalcy. Again, our definition of "normal" may not be what it is for everyone, but it suffices for us. Yet I grow increasingly weary of the tasks which have been thrust upon me, in combination with those tasks which I had enjoyed in the past. For example, I have always been the chief financial officer in our household. This was a task I not only enjoyed, but relished. It was exhilarating to be able to know at a moment's notice where I stood financially, what was owed, what was coming in, when things would no longer be an expense.

The problem comes when this task is just one of a thousand chores I have laid out in the week. True, I could be doing some of them now, rather than writing this paragraph, but everyone needs a moment to recharge batteries now and again. After my hours of work, volunteer and/or social activities, ensuring that we don't starve nor permit our four-footed fellows to do so, and attempting to keep the homestead to a minimum level of dishevelment, those tasks which were once my refuge from ordinary life are now a stake in the heart of my life.

More than once in my life, I have found myself to be worth more dead than alive. Of course, one's worth to the world and one's worth to one's family or self cannot be equated. The previous  time I was in this state, my family would have received more in survivors' benefits than I was then able to provide. Those days are long past. Now, my earthly value is enhanced by my life insurance, the largest chunk of which is currently being provided by the company for which I work.

There's an insecurity in that type of value. Should I lose my employment, I would no longer have the insurance protection which I currently enjoy. Additionally, I would be unable to pay for such minor pleasantries as my home, my vehicle, food, and yes, my non-employer-provided life insurance. While I presently have no genuine concerns as to my future situation with my employer, I have, over the past several years, lost a considerable percentage of my wages to inflation. When a raise is received most years, but not all, and when those raises even when presented annually fall short of the rise in inflation, the standard of living must necessarily decline, as well.

In short, I am working harder for less pay and with much more to lose should I become unemployed. Is there any wonder that I tire of the whole system?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

"I wouldn't have honked if I'd known it was you."

Many years ago, I was driving to church, and stopped for a red light. The light changed, and I waited, my mind elsewhere. The large, expensive car behind me honked. I realized then that the light had changed, and proceeded to church.

I arrived, and as I was leaving to leave, and elderly couple that I knew approached me. The gentleman told me, "I'm sorry about honking at you this morning. I wouldn't have honked if I'd known it was you."

Too often, we bluster our way through life. Even caring individuals seem to step on the figurative toes of others, when those others are strangers to them. Even though, in my story above, I needed to be reminded to go, the man who honked at me was embarassed at having treated me like he would a stranger.

I often am told that, "Life isn't fair." This is a fact. However, much of life could be more fair, if the people in everyone's lives were to act more fairly. Do you yell at your employees? Mistreat your significant other? Ignore your children so that you can have more time to talk on the phone? Lie on your taxes? Keep the extra dollar the kid at the convenience store gave you in your change?

Before we do an action, we should ask ourselves how we would feel if we were on the other side. Will the kid working his first job, perhaps to save for college or to help out his parents, get fired because his till doesn't balance at the end of the day? Will someone tell him it was all his own fault, or that "life isn't fair"?

If I am the one who received that extra dollar, which I probably have no real need for, and I knowingly kept it, it's not all his fault. It's my fault, much more than it is his. He is being punished for an honest - if careless - mistake. I however, am benefitting from deliberately committing a wrong.

Now when someone in traffic ignores the light, I try to remind myself of the event mentioned earlier. I ask myself if there might be something in that person's life which is distracting him. Is he going to a funeral? Is he contemplating marriage? Is he on his way home from a double shift at work? Maybe he's just a jerk, but I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt.