DIVIDING OURSELVES INTO COMPETING COMMODITIES
I believe that we are all deeply connected to each other and ourselves, but some of the time we forget it because our lives and sense of self have become dominated by standards, rankings and statistics – leading to a feeling that we are commodities in a marketplace.
How am I doing in comparison to you? How are my kids doing in comparison to yours? Am I too old? Too much this, not enough that? I wonder about what we are doing to ourselves and teaching our children as we raise them in this culture of personal achievement and competition.
I think we need more emphasis on our interweaving journeys through things like story-sharing and cooperative teamwork. Examples of this in my church are work trips to New Orleans, covenant groups, and opportunities to share our personal beliefs with each other.
In my family’s life, I saw a lovely illustration of this emphasis when my daughter Molly left home for Americorps last fall. Although apprehensive about what she would encounter, she had decided to take a year off from college because she didn’t really know why she was there and her spirit was flagging. Two weeks into her Americorps training, she called home and said in an excited voice, “Mom, everybody wants to like each other!” I don’t think she had experienced that kind of loving community in an institutional setting since preschool.
I remember attending the “honors” ceremony for the graduating 8th graders when Molly finished middle school seven years ago. She had gotten an award for her science fair project, and when I looked around to find her during the event, I saw her in the upper bleachers talking and laughing with Peter. He was the son of a babysitter who had been taking care of Molly’s little sister Lily when Lily had died of SIDS the summer before. As I watched these two young people together – Peter and Molly — it occurred to me that what was really worth honoring that day was their ability to remain friends after going through a trauma that could so easily have pitted them and our families against each other. But there was no venue for that kind of recognition.
I think we should be putting as much emphasis on our caring connections in the lives of our communities and schools as we do on performance and achievement. If we did that by modeling kindness, respect and helping through volunteerism and teamwork, and recognized it as important in ourselves and in our children, our lives would be richer and our communities would be stronger.
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