Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

But That’s Not Fair!

Last week, the small town of Fairdale, Illinois was ravaged by an EF-4 tornado. What was once a community is now reduced to what looks like Pick-Up-Stix. One reporter said that had the tornado struck a quarter mile either north or south, the town would have been spared.

 

Fairdale Google Map

 

All that open space, but the tornado roared right through the town.

So not fair.

Most people are born healthy while some are born sick. Some face illness later in life. Others aren’t sick a day in their lives.

Qatar is the richest country in the world, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the poorest (based on per-capita GDP). I bet whether you are born in one or the other plays a huge part in your quality of life and your future. And where you’re born really isn’t up to you now, is it?

In the much more mundane and insignificant realm, there is the story of when my over-30 softball team made it to the championship—played on a freezing November night. The opposing team brought a 200’ extension cord to power a space heater and warm up their bats. They scored three runs in the top half of the first inning before the umpire agreed that their being able to heat their bats was unfair. Those three runs were the only ones scored in the game. Championship lost. (Yes, I’m still bitter about it.)

 

trophies

 

Things happen. Bad things happen to “good” people, and good things happen to “bad” people…and vice versa. It’s a pretty simple reality—all you have to do is look around you.

Life isn’t fair.

I get frustrated when people preach that being Christian means one’s life will be easier. Pardon me, but that’s a load of crap. There is no magic get-out-of-jail-free card. Faith will help you be better able to deal with life’s injustices and challenges, but if anyone tells you that believing will make your life all sunshine and lollipops, kick them in the shin (and then turn the other cheek. Wait, I may have that a bit confused.)

Bit I digress.

Fairness is not the default of life on earth. Just ask the gazelle being chased by the cheetah.

But don’t you long for it?

 

treasure

 

My son all too often begins a sentence with, “But I was just…” and then what follows is any one of a million explanations for why he was doing something he shouldn’t. It’s as though, given an excuse, everything can be made “right” or explained away. It’s a natural instinct, but it drives me crazy. Often when I tell my son that life isn’t fair, I remind him that he needs to understand that he can’t expect it to be fair, either.

I strongly believe we have to foster that in our children—not to expect fairness, but to fight for it. While we are not entitled to it, we shouldn’t settle for life’s injustices, either. The sooner kids understand this, the sooner they can choose to be active about it and not passively wait for justice.

Thankfully, that seems to be a part of the human spirit—fighting for fairness that will innately never happen on its own, and realizing that it is an uphill battle with no apex—no final destination. Not on this earth. We will never be victors when it comes to the fairness war, but battle by battle, we can make a difference. And I don’t think we’ll ever be short of battles.

Fairdale had no chance in battling against the tornado, but they are already battling the aftermath. As we so often see, after devastation comes restoration. We humans have a tendency to rise to our best when faced with the worst, and within hours of the storm, people were helping one another in critical ways.

It never ceases to amaze me how people even begin to clean up after such loss, but piece by piece, they do.

I’ll never understand how life works, but I’m so glad I have constant reminders to keep battling on. And on.

Life isn’t fair. It’s…life.

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
~Eleanor Roosevelt

 

All photos are my own or have been used with attribution.
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Posted in Soapbox

What Have We Done?

Me at 11. Note McD's t-shirt (Also check out the nifty satin jacket behind me.)
Me at 11. Note McD’s t-shirt.*
(Also check out the nifty satin jacket behind me.)

“When I was your age…” is the start of a sentence that will almost certainly bring an eye roll from the intended audience. And, I must admit, as I get older, I hear myself say it more and more often. I mean…there have been leaps and bounds in day to day life from the time I was a kid till today, and they are amazing to note.

Indulge me for a minute or two, will you? Because while I will begin by pointing out some things that readers around my age will nod at with perhaps an “Amen, Sister,” I do have a little bit of a soapbox point I want to get to.

When I was a kid

I didn’t ask my mom or dad to “play on their phone.” (Though I did play on the phone, technically, if you count prank calls), and I’m pretty sure we all knew the length of the kitchen phone cord for our “safe zone” when Mom was on the phone.

We had Pong and thought we were pretty cutting edge until the neighbors got an Atari. Living large, they were.

At the start of my schooling, if I had to type an assignment, I had to use a line paper gauge…remember those? And God forbid there were footnotes involved. Then you had to calculate how many notes would be on the page and how many lines you’d need left at the bottom. And if you were wrong? Holy cry. Do it all over again. It was totally exciting when the “element” typewriter came along where you could just backspace and type over your error without having to use the little white-out strip. And word processing? Well, the heavens opened up on that one.

We remember, yes? Now to get to a question I feel worth asking…

I remember when it was big news that we got a McDonald’s in our town. It was a BIG DEAL. And if my mom and dad said we could eat there, we were drunk with excitement. A burger and fries! Woohoo! Life is good!

So…how did the need arise to give kids TOYS to eat junk food? At what point was the food itself not enough? I mean, it’s not like you’re taking your kids to McBrusselSprouts or McLiver. Why the bribe? Why the reward for eating something that the average kid would be happy to eat all by itself? Wasn’t it a “happy meal” already?

What did it sound like around the conference table when that corporate decision was made? “Well, Ronald, I think that in order to convince the kids to eat the French fries, we should give them toys. This way, they can get something for getting something! And then they’ll scream and whine for their parents to get them a Happy Meal for the latest toy, and the parents will cave in in order to get them to shut up and then they will come to McDonald’s more often! Make sense? Let’s vote!”

Oh, joy...another piece of crap.  Exactly what we needed!
Oh, joy…another piece of crap.
Exactly what we needed!

I look at the toys they give today (YES, I have purchased many a Happy Meal for my kid), and I think of all the plastic waste generated from these ridiculous payoffs for eating what should already be a treat in and of itself. (And NO, I’m not looking for an argument on whether or not a child should even eat fast food. I live in the real world. My kid eats fast food here and there. If yours doesn’t, that’s great, but I don’t really want to hear about it.)

After about 30 seconds, the average meal toy has used up its entertainment value. I’m sure that landfills are stuffed with these unnecessary prizes, as well as many a kid’s bedroom. All of this just adds to the sense of exaggerated entitlement that “these kids today” are being raised with.

But along with their über sense of entitlement…is the flip of this issue our lowered expectations? Maybe we should start expecting more of our kids so that we don’t continue to foster the belief that the world owes them something. Because you and I both know it doesn’t. It doesn’t owe anyone a damn thing. In fact, we owe it. We owe each other. And that can be a challenging principle to uphold in a world where a treat deserves a treat.

Whew. Okay. I have dismounted my soapbox. If you’re still here, thank you for listening. Now let’s go through the drive-thru…

*The McDonald’s shirt was something I received for participating in a basketball tournament. At least I had to sweat for it.