Sunday, September 11, 2016

Equality vs. Inequity

I once knew a man who made me think on what society preaches about equality and fairness. This fella wasn't raised in a wealthy home. In fact, one might say that according to his parents' career paths, and the amount of siblings in the home, and the cost of living at the time that they were lower class. They certainly would have qualified for food stamps, Medicaid for health insurance, or other welfare-based aid. But, his parents for whatever reason unbeknownst to him never went that route.

They lived modestly, meaning they had an older home with older furnishings, but all was functional. If things broke, his parents would figure out how to fix it or go without it. He and his siblings had clothes, sometimes not the newest styles, but they were clean. Their hair wasn't always cut, but it was the 80's and little boys always had messy longer hair.

The man said that his childhood was filled with outdoors activities, playing night games with neighborhood friends, building snow forts in the winters and much more. For years he played baseball using his dad's old glove while his friends had the newest gloves. He loved the old glove. It was well-oiled and functional with a deep pocket, and it was his dad's. He thought that because his dad used it, it must have some kind of "part" of him in it which is what made it such a good glove. He used it until it finally fell apart when he was in his early teens. He finally bought a brand-new glove with his own money that he used until it fell apart when he was 37 years old. He loved that glove just as he'd loved his first glove. It played a lot of games when he was a teen. It was used by his sister when she began playing softball. He used it again as an adult playing "old man's baseball" (i.e. softball). Like the first glove, it had memory to it and was special to him. It wasn't fancy, and it wasn't new...but, it did the job

His family spent a lot of times doing activities outside or traveling to places close to home. They found ways to enjoy all things with as little expenditure as possible. He remembers many trips to his grandparents (6 hour road trip) At the half-way point his dad would always pull into a McDonald's and buy each child (there were five kids) a hamburger and a fry to share. He honestly did not think about having any more than that, because he was happy for what he had. He recalls buying a Happy Meal the first time when he was 17, just because he could. :) He said "it wasn't all it was cracked up to be."

His father and mother taught him the value of hard work. Neither of them had completed a college education, but both were highly skilled and educated in other ways. His father moved up quickly in his employment because of these skills and because of "blessings" that he said were given from God. His parents taught him and his siblings by word and deed that nothing can take the place of hard work, trusting in God, and in being kind to everyone. These were teachings the man took to heart and continued to follow. He didn't rely on society or others. He relied on God and on hard-work, because it is what seemed to work for his parents.

As this man grew, his parents taught him the value of education and encouraged him and his siblings to go to college. They explained to him that they would not be able to pay for it, but it was up to him to get scholarships or to pay for it himself. Never once, did he think it was unfair. It just simply was as it was and he would do it. He found ways to make it happen. He went to school and graduated with very little debt with a Bachelors degree. He did it on his own. His parents told him he could and he believed it. He worked hard. He did his best to trust in God. He believed that kindness would help, and it did.

Then, this man went into a field that focused on public service and on helping individuals to better themselves. Somewhere along the line, he learned that there were others in poverty or in lesser situations who felt they could never get out. They believed that society had failed them and not provided them with enough opportunity to grow--that inequality had damned their progression--that life had not been fair, because they did not have as much as others. This didn't set well with him. He questioned,  "who ever said there existed a certain fair or equal amount of anything that all should require to live happily? Who has enough knowledge to truly judge what is fair?" If there was such a person they would have to be not only wise, but have all knowledge of every person in every situation, culture, lifestyle, race/ethnic group, etc. and know both implicitly and explicitly what they need so that everything is perfectly provided in a perfectly fair and a perfectly non-judgmental fashion. His reasoning for this thinking was that one may look at what he had or didn't have growing up in comparison to others and judge it as not being enough. However, to him it was more than enough. Therein lies a problem...fairness and equality are based on context and are individually measured, thus nothing can ever be equal. Thus, that means that those who say they do not have enough, may actually have enough to be happy just as this man had and continues to have. What's the difference between this guy and those who had the same, yet say it was not enough??? I could certainly provide my response, but then the reader would never think for themselves and figure it out.

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