I believe in taking only our fair share in this world.
For most of my life, I have struggled with the notion that I must be one of the luckiest humans ever to walk the earth. I have ample food, shelter, security, and medicine. I can always drink clean water, breathe clean air and enjoy nature. I am blessed with people to love and who love me in return. My job is steady, my wife is wonderful, my kids are amazing, and we are all basically healthy and happy. We live in a friendly neighborhood in a prosperous community, and I enjoy plentiful free time and the joys of giving back to this world which has shone its favor upon me so capriciously.
But how is one really to feel fulfilled by all these wonders when the painful awareness of others’ constant suffering lurks in our subconscious? What justice is it that I should have so much while others get so little? Of course we learn from a young age that there is no fair answer to this question. We must simply do what we can to provoke change for the better, to set an example, to never turn our backs, and never lose this compassion. We simply do what we can do.
Still, there is a restlessness to this charmed life. Some may pour the yearning into religious faith. But perhaps no amount of charity beneath the total relinquishing of ourselves to the poor will ever quite do, and yet we know they will always be with us.
So one day, while watching my son’s first grade class dole out the goodies at snacktime, it hit me: take only your fair share. The teacher has provided enough nourishment for everyone, but those who take more are taking from others, even though it may not feel that way at the time. After 37 years, it was my eureka moment. I guess they do say you’re supposed to learn everything you need to know by kindergarten.
And lucky (again) for me, there is a whole science out there to this belief. It’s called sustainability – the theory that you use only what can be replaced for the next person in line. Be sure there is enough for everyone. So simple, yet another question hangs in the air: How much is my fair share?
At least for now, I am satisfied to have reached this almost certainly unanswerable question. The pursuit of sustainability will shape everything I do. Knowing I cannot give back justice, taking only my fair share will be my penance for privilege, a small token of love for a peculiar and broken world that has left me wanting for nothing – nothing, that is, except for a way to fix it.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.