I think that our basic needs as human beings should be changed to: food, water, shelter, and being needed.
Everyone, no matter what age, gender, race, or religion, needs to be needed. I work with adults that have various disabilities, and I try to get them jobs. I had worked at this job for a few months when I began to feel overworked and underpaid. After taking a few days off, I arrived back at work to a myriad of questions: “Where were you?” “How do you work the copy machine?” “Your not leaving again are you?” “Will you help me with this application, I couldn’t do it yesterday without you.”
I had been so focused on how the job was affecting me, that I didn’t realize how I was affecting them, and how they needed me.
One of my students, Mya, is a 24 year old African American whose parents both died of AIDS when she was 6. She was in and out of foster homes for 5 years, battling various forms of abuse and despair. She finally transitioned to a group home, and then to her own apartment. She still needs a job. She needs someone to encourage her when she doesn’t want to attend class, and to celebrate her successes, no matter how small they seem. She needs me.
We need to be needed at work, to get us out of bed in the morning. Not only needed by machines to be turned off and on, but we need to be needed by people. It doesn’t matter whether we are needed to pick up the trash in 3 suburban neighborhoods every Wednesday, or to sign peace treaties at the United Nations. Just being able to contribute defines us. Just as the students need the teacher to explain algebra, the teacher needs the students to listen, to understand, or to show up and try.
We need to be needed at home. Parents need children to keep them young and children need parents to help them grow older. At the end of the day, we might be needed to make a phone call, give a back rub, or pick up milk at the grocery store. It doesn’t matter what the task at hand is, just the fact that it exists, simply because we exist, for each other.
We all need the taxi drivers and fast food workers, the oncologists and ambulance drivers. It doesn’t matter for how long or when in our untold lives our needs for these people will appear, but the need is always there, waiting for us to realize it. We need each other.
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