"I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.”
I have always been fascinated in the different things that people find important. What is it in one's make-up that causes him/her to choose the path that he/she follows. If you talk with the most successful of business people, they will tell you that they knew since elementary school that they would have a lucrative lifestyle and become leaders rather than followers. Many of them believe that money equals success and it is the mighty dollar that allows them to do good in the world.
Other people have spent a lifetime giving of themselves in both their vocation and their avocations. They work in service jobs, which are oft time low paying, and then spend their free time volunteering in their communities. They feel that money is not necessary to attain true happiness and, in fact, they disdain the people who spend money to show that they are making a difference in the world.
During my college years, I was probably more like the latter as I proudly joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), an anti-poverty program created by Lyndon Johnson's Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. It was the domestic version of the Peace Corps and allowed me to work with underprivileged youth and needy migrant workers while still attaining my degree. I was pretty self-righteous then, and believed that materialism was probably the eleventh deadly sin. My father made the mistake of telling me that he was considering buying a Cadillac, and my horror was so complete that the poor guy settled for a lesser car.
With years comes wisdom, and my thoughts have changed. It is not that I don't admire those that give completely of themselves. They are surely casting stones across the water and creating ripples that will make our world a better place. In fact, everyone in my extended family works in some type of service field. Teachers, government workers, a dentist (who volunteers one day a week to treat those who can not pay), a psychologist (who spent a month at ground zero helping policemen and firefighters and their families), and other much needed careers that make our world a better place.
There is no shame, however, in contributing through your wallet. The contributions that people like Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet have made, make a difference every day to the lives of thousands of people. Their business acumen has allowed them to direct their funds to places where they are desperately needed, and their generosity is an inspiration to all. The fact that they live in mansions and drive expensive cars in no way diminishes their good deeds, and perhaps their lifestyles are an inspiration for others to share the wealth that they are lucky enough to have attained.
The grown up version of me spent most of my life trying to make the life of young people better. I tried to bestow upon my children an understanding of what is right and the importance of sharing. I tried to teach my students lessons far more important than nouns, pronouns and Shakespeare. I try to cast my stones, but I do so in comfort. I smile at the young woman who found Cadillacs distasteful as I drive around in my Lexus. I love my beautiful new home that Arthur and I worked hard to afford. I give of myself, but I am happy that we can also write checks to our favorite charities each year and contribute financially. It does take a village and all types of people to make this world a better place.
I believe that knowledge contributes towards that better world too, and we are never too old to attain this knowledge in any way possible. Herb Reich gives us another way to learn in his book Lies They Teach in School:Exposing the Myths Behind 250 Commonly Believed Fallacies. He offers us pages of facts that he has disproven, telling us that much of what we learned in school was wrong. The book is interesting, but since he does not cite his sources, I can't guarantee that he is correct. I find it a challenge and intend to check his facts over the next few months.
I also enjoyed William L. Myers Jr.'s book this week. A Criminal Defense is a legal thriller that kept me guessing throughout its pages. Myers' courtroom scenes rang true, and his protagonist, Mick McFarland was an interesting character. The plot, while not particularly original, was well crafted, and I recommend this book to those who enjoy a good legal thriller.
As always complete reviews of these books follow this blog.