When I was a young lawyer, one of my aged partners suggested that our firm should be like the “Athenian youth” and strive to leave the world a better place for our having been here. That is certainly a laudable goal. Who among us doesn’t want to make a difference? Too often, we while away our time on personal, even selfish, pursuits. I hold to the belief that each of us in our own small way can make a positive difference in the world.
You make think it unrealistic to expect to impact the world as whole. You may be right about that. After all, many of us have limited skills and even more limited work ethics. If our efforts require much in the way of ability or effort we likely will fall short. Do not despair. There ways–simple ways, in fact– each of us can make the world a better place. If we can have a positive impact on just one person, we will have made a difference.
The person with whom we should start is me. That’s right. I deserve a better life as much as anyone, maybe more. If you can do even one thing to make my life easier, you will not have lived in vain. You will have helped me. I can think of nothing more commendable.
Here are five things you can do, starting today, to improve my lot in life. Let’s get started
- DON’T DRIVE A CAR
The environmental damage from automobiles is well-known. Even electric cars require all manner of minerals for their construction, the mining of which is always controversial. If, like me, this doesn’t persuade you in the slightest to give up your car, consider the effect of your car on me.
Maybe you’re one of those people who always drive 10-15 mph below the speed limit. You’re annoying me. When you look in your rear view mirror and see the line of traffic, just assume I’m in that line. Why inconvenience me? I have to be somewhere–and soon. Besides, the way your drive, you’re close to walking anyway. Just go ahead and hit the pavement.
Even if you drive at normal speeds, you still need to park that car. Traffic stresses me out. I have places to go, things to do. Put bluntly, you’re in my way. Public transportation is perfect for you. Better yet, stay at home. What is so horrible in your home that you are compelled to leave it? Stay there and address your disturbing domestic problems.
Speaking of parking, if you drive you will eventually park somewhere. I need that parking spot.
Of course, some of you drive for your livelihood. By all means, continue to do so. You may be delivering something I need. Plus, someone must provide transportation to those who no longer drive. It certainly won’t be me. I’m busy trying to get somewhere.
2. DON’T PLAY THE LOTTERY
All over our great country, there are outlets available to buy lottery tickets. PowerBalls, MegaMillions and other variations beckon. The dizzying selection of scratch off games sit spooled like toilet paper waiting to be ripped loose by cholera-ravaged unfortunates. Riches await. Our nation’s vast network of convenience stores are the prime culprits in separating you from your money.
We all know that the odds winning big in the lottery are astronomical, on par with getting a chance to walk on the moon. Every day, untold thousands of people waste their hard-earned money on these games of chance which amount to nothing so much as a regressive taxation system. (Honestly, I have no problem with a regressive tax. The progressive tax system has never done me any favors. That rant will have to wait for another day.)
These are compelling reasons to avoid the lottery. The most important reason, though, may be less obvious. The next time you are purchasing your tickets turn at look behind you. That is me standing in line. I have patronized this convenience store for–you guessed it–the convenience of it. I know that prices are higher than at the grocery store, often considerably so. I have selected this store for the speed and, again, the convenience of it.
You, guided only by your avarice, have robbed me of the one commodity I value at that moment–convenience (are you sensing the pattern yet?). In fact, there is nothing more inconvenient than to stand in line with a cup of coffee while you negotiate a transaction only slightly less complex than currency arbitrage.
The odds of your winning the lottery are remote, at best. The odds of royally ticking me off, though, are virtually certain. Please, move along.
3. SPREAD THE WORD–SOMEWHERE ELSE
I have no problem with your religion, unless you use it do great harm to others. Even then, my problem is likely to be with how you practice it, not the faith itself. Regardless, I don’t want to hear about it. This comes from someone who has always been fascinated by religion. I’ve studied religion from various perspectives, both the faithful and skeptical. If I’m curious, I’ll get the information.
When you want to tell me about your religion, I’m very likely to be somewhere between disinterested and down right hostile. This is true even if I agree with your views. Why am I so obtuse? Religion (or spirituality, if you prefer) is a matter of faith, not argument or persuasion. Nagging or yammering at someone won’t bring him around to your views. When that someone is me, it may cause the person to adopt contrary beliefs simply to frustrate your efforts.
You might assume that I am directing this solely at Christians. You’re wrong. If, like me, you are an American, you probably live in America where most people claim to be Christian. Naturally, most of our contact is with Christians. Regardless, I implore people of all religions to follow this lead. For example, if you are Hindu do not concern me with your views of Vishnu or Shiva. I know a Buddhist, and I sincerely hope that he does not tell me of the proper path to the Middle Way. I’m comfortable with where I am, leaning much more toward indulgence than asceticism.
Nor are you atheists excluded. As a matter of fact, you’re especially not excluded. I know you’re proud to be an atheist. Consider me to be on a “need to know” basis. I have no need to know. Here’s idea: Find a vegetarian and you two can “one up” each other on the solid, empirical grounding of your views.
At this point, some readers are preparing comments to enlighten me on why they will not be silent. You’re really missing the point, which is simply to make things easier for me. Your comments won’t do that. Plus, I’m not asking you to be silent. Just be silent around me, and assume that I am always around.
4. VOTE YOUR CONSCIENCE–QUIETLY
Everything I abhor about hearing about your religious views applies with even more force to your politics. Unlike religion which is driven (mostly) by genuine belief, political drivel is often impelled by the desire to be in the know and perhaps a bit smarter than others. These are repellent characteristics. More importantly, they annoy me and can diminish my enjoyment of such important pursuits as surfing the Internet and mindlessly watching television.
I’m well aware that there is only so much I can expect here. Politicians and talking heads are inescapable. But, ask yourself: “With all this political discourse, what could I possibly add to the conversation, given my obvious limitations?” I’m sure you’ll agree that you run a much greater risk of annoying me than contributing anything meaningful.
If you are truly committed to improving my life, you will take this to heart. That door you knock on with a fist full of campaign literature could be mine. It could be me who reads one of your wrong-headed screeds on social media. It’s not that I don’t respect your views (which I may not, of course). It’s just that I don’t care. Isn’t it unfair and more than a tad selfish to inundate me with tripe that only you and others care about it? You’re better than that–or at least you should be.
You’re angry about the state of the world. I get it. If I were you, I’d be angry, too. But I’m not you. I’m me. It does no good to have two of us angry.
5. RAISE YOUR OWN FOOD
Modern agriculture has changed the world. We feed far more people than was thought possible even a generation ago. Our grocery stores brim with foods of all kinds. Sadly, the price we pay is high one.
Additives, preservatives, chemicals and the like endanger our food supply. Our farm animals are fed steroids. Genetic modifications have made many foodstuffs risky. Most important in our daily struggle is the cold, hard fact that I frequently go to the grocery store to buy this stuff.
I like my food chock full of preservatives. I want it preserved as long as possible. Chemicals don’t bother me. I like huge, mutated chickens pumped full of steroids. I want my beef dyed red. I want my fruits and vegetables sprayed down with insecticides. I don’t want to eat bugs. In short, the modern grocery store is exactly what I want. You, on the other hand, need to make changes. Why?
You’re the person with 11 items when the sign plainly limits the checkout lane to TEN FREAKING ITEMS! You position your cart in the aisle where I can’t get by on either side. You pay with checks, like some troglodyte who just emerged from his subterranean lair. Why not see if they’ll take pelts? You use coupons. Think about this: If you need to use all those coupons, isn’t it just possible that you can’t really afford to buy food in a store?
Grow your own food. Raise chickens. Buy a cow. Even a modest quarter acre lot will accommodate at least a couple of cows. Get a hog. Grow something. Your ancestors foraged for their food. Get off your high horse (you can eat those, too, by the way) and quit acting like you’re better than your kinfolk.
Since you won’t be driving a car, raising your own food makes perfect sense. It will be convenient for you and, critically, ME. The world will be a better place–at least for me.