The world that I currently live in is very different than the one that I grew up in and for once it has nothing to do with race. It wasn’t that long ago that relatively small acts of kindness were the norm and not the exception. When a financially vulnerable person returning a bag filled with cash would not be met with amazement but with the expectation that the vast majority of us are wired to do the right thing and that includes returning items to their rightful owner. A time when helping a stranger in a strange city find the taxi stand is not seen as some honorable act, but simply something that you do.
In this 24/7 world we are living in, we can do amazing things. The very fact that I am sitting in my office in a sparsely populated state writing this piece and the fact that you are reading it and I am just some middle-aged nobody speaks to how wonderful this brave new world can be. Our ability to connect with others and stay connected is awesome but the downside I believe is that too much connection makes us disconnect. The quiet spaces that used to naturally occur are no longer there; it’s one of the reasons that I believe yoga is so popular, it makes us plug back into ourselves and in connecting with ourselves, we start to see the inherent worth and dignity of others too.
We have become a culture of me, where me and my needs outweigh the greater good. If you think I am kidding, how many drivers have you spotted today driving with heads bowed and looking at what appears to be a screen? Despite the fact that we now know for certain that texting and driving isn’t far removed from drinking and driving, we still do it. In our minds, our individual need to send that text or take a quick peek into our social media space of choice often outweighs the greater need to ensure that we focus on the task ahead…driving.
To live a life where we place the needs of others above ourselves (and our loved ones) is almost an outdated notion. Not even our elected officials care to look out for the needs of others anymore. Today the United States government essentially shut down because the grown-ups who were elected are so focused on their personal agendas that everyone else can be damned. The problem with a me focused agenda is that the fallout affects millions. Individually and collectively a society works best when most of us care about something greater than our own needs. When we recognize that very few of us truly make it on our own. Even when we think are making it on our own, we are either exceedingly lucky or we get a little help along the way.
The United States is a relatively young nation that is slowly dissolving into a puddle of teenage angst as it battles to find its place in the world. Are we becoming a nation where our historic legacy of “rugged individualism” slowly turns us into the greatest nation of me? Where the needs of the few can hold the many hostage and destroy a nation or will we create a place where we all have skin in the game and as such think beyond our own individual needs?