99% of the income, 1% of the population

Do you remember the protests that were happening on wall street a while back? People were frustrated that in America, 99% of the income belongs to 1% of the population. There were protests to bring attention to this fact – to the sheer greed of the super-rich. I was thinking about this yesterday, but it wasn’t based on a rage I had for the well off, but a rage I had for myself.

I read an article on Liberia that started it. Here in America, the ebola crisis is over. A handful of cases and we’ve eliminated the problem with nothing more than viable hospitals and quarantine procedures. Poof. It’s gone. Out of sight, out of mind. Yet in Liberia, things aren’t going so well. Ebola is spreading and people are dying, but what do we care?

And then you start to read more statistics. You start to see how many people die of hunger each day. You start to read how many people die without clean water. And you start to see, the real killer isn’t even disease. It’s malnutrition. It’s a cut that gets infected. A snakebite that can’t be treated. It’s heatstroke.

It’s the bland, the normal, the unastounding.

And here I am, complaining about money.

It occured to me as I read more and watched more and listened more, that I am the 99% in America, and likely the 1% in the world. My life, my luxuries, these things I enjoy, no matter how poor I feel – I’m still in the 1%. I started to wonder how they look at the world, those millionaires who want to be billionaires. Those with lots of money but no power, no political influences. They too likely can’t hear me shouting becasue they’re too concerned with not being rich enough to buy an NFL team or to own more than one private jet. They can’t hear me shouting because they’re not looking down. They’re looking up. They’re wanting more. They’re wishing they had more.

I need to quit looking up. I need to quit caring so much about having more money or more stuff, because it’ll never be enough money or enough stuff. I need to start to look at the ways I can help people around me. I need to be uncomfortable with my position in the scope of the world and I need to enact change. And I don’t mean just sending money to Liberia. I mean seeing the broken and the hurting and the helpless and the defenseless and the needy right here too. I mean both.

If reading an article is making me feel guilty, then I’m not doing enough.


Be Thankful

I enjoy the strange progression of little things in our life.

My wife and I bought a house, our first house. As we perused through the boxes of stuff we had accumulated and not thrown away, I noticed a small whiteboard that hangs on a wall or a fridge. It was a little thing, still in the plastic wrap, about half the size of a piece of printer paper.

It sat on a table for a time while we organized our kitchen, and then it moved to our bookshelf and then over time it made its way to a pile of stuff that needed to be taken to the basement to be stored. One morning, when I woke up, I found it in this pile next to the stairs and I decided to rescue it from its doomed existence in a cardboard prison.

I unwrapped the whiteboard and stuck it on the fridge.

I could have just as easily taken it to the basement with the other things that have no place, but I chose to make use of it.

The whole thing is silly really. I mean, here in America, we have so much stuff that we literally put stuff we don’t need but might need later in boxes for our spiders to crawl on. Even our spiders are spoiled Americans.

Of course, once the white board was up it had to have a purpose, so I deemed it’s purpose would be to creep out my wife. I conjured my artistic prowess (which usually involves stick figures) and made my best attempt at a strange and creepy face with an over sized nose, and I left for work.

For a week the face stood idle. I commented on it to my wife who said she was not startled by it at all, and thought it looked silly. And a few more days passed.

Then one morning I woke up and walked down the stairs to make some breakfast, expecting to be greeted by this face, but instead I saw my wife had done something special. She wrote two words in big block print, a reminder to us both.

“Be Thankful!” it said.

Whiteboard that hangs on our fridge

Whiteboard on our fridge

From that day forward the whiteboard greets me every morning for breakfast. It reminds me of something small, something important. It reminds be to be thankful for my fridge, and for my wife, and for my house, and for my kitchen, and my family of pets that I adore so much. In two words, it begins a slideshow of a thousand images in my head.

A week or so later, i added to the message in tiny letters below it (with my terrible handwriting). I wrote the words

“In all things – great and small”

Because if she hadn’t brought that whiteboard up from the basement, and if it hadn’t moved from the table to the bookshelf to the pile of stuff that needed to go back into the basement, and if i hadn’t decided to make a use of something that was excess, something without purpose, then I wouldn’t be greeted by this message every morning.

The power of little things never ceases to amaze me.