This I believe,
I believe in the power of ants–of the “antness” of human beings. When I was a little girl I would watch the ant hills on the road home for school. Their tiny feet could make four lane highways in the Oklahoma red clay. I would stare at them, marching in place to avoid the ants from crawling up my legs. Only as an adult did I learn that these were the feared fire ants. As individuals they were expendable. As a team, they made pyramids.
That fact that we are all replaceable makes human beings a force. Leaders, CEOs and professionals often feel that they are irreplaceable. Yet when politicians or dictators retire or are deposed, their countries persist. CEOs often feel that their enormous salaries are justified by their unique talents—despite evidence that companies run by “expensive” CEOs do not perform better than those run by less compensated ones. Doctors feel that they are irreplaceable and must always respond to their patients’ needs. Reality is that patients adapt when their insurance changes or their doctor moves or retires. Our strength is not in our individual talents but our collective effort. Doing whatever job one is doing well brings satisfaction and most people–probably an outstanding 85 % –do their jobs well from the fast food worker, to the maid, to the professional, CEO or politician.
The job in which we are most irreplaceable is that as parents. Our children depend on us to protect them, guide them and love them. They depend on us to teach them how to love and guide and protect others. But even in this important job others can fill our shoes. If they loose their parents—from death, disease, violence or addiction–young children face huge difficulties; but many persevere and have happy, productive lives because of the collective efforts of family, friends and government programs.
Collective effort is what counts. It is important that as individuals we do right so that the some total of our efforts is good. There is a never ending supply of leaders, good and bad. The bad ones don’t get enough cancer and too many good ones die young. But many of our best leaders, famous and quiet, do live to old age and improve our collective existence.
I believe that summing up good moments makes a good day and that good days make a good life. That there is power and happiness in doing well and being righteous in the best sense of that word. That small good acts add up to larger good acts.
That changing a light bulb can reduce global warming and that living green can make a person wealthier in many ways.
So as I grow older I don’t worry that I am irreplaceable. I hope to live a long life and to improve the lives of others, but I know that I am replaceable. I believe that I have taught my children the skills to survive and thrive and that someone will come after me to take care of my patients and to care for my gardens. And I believe that this collectivism is the strength of being human.
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