Monday, June 18, 2007

So Blessed...

This past few weeks we've been so amazed by the generosity of our family and friends in terms of the gifts we've gotten for little Danny. With so many people contributing a thing or two we've pretty much got everything we could possibly need (or gift cards to get what we haven't thought of yet.) We feel very blessed.

This whole lovely experience has got me thinking about the power of collectivism. After I finished my Peace Corps service I studied intercultural relations in graduate school and learned a great deal about how different value systems really shape how we see the world and live together in the world.

Once a U.S, college student told me a story about going on a trip to Ireland where she visited pubs with her new Irish friends. She was very impressed by how whenever one friend would smoke the friend would offer everyone there a cigarette. (This was back before smoking was outlawed in public places in Ireland.) Anyway, she'd happily accepted this gift and yet when she wanted to smoke she'd sort of sneak one out of her own pack without offering. She figured if people wanted to share that was their choice. She remembered thinking she'd go broke and have no cigarettes at all if she shared her meager supply so her behavior was logical to her then.

She soon found out that her new friends were miffed with her and thought she was quite selfish. She didn't understand that in a lot of culture, when people all share what they have then everybody gets something each and every time. But when one person plays by different "rules" it messes everything up. She valued individualism and then valued collectivism. It was an interesting story and lesson she shared.

I do see a beauty is collectivism. Some say the story of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes was really not a miracle of creating something from nothing, rather it was the miracle of inspiring everyone to open their coats which concealed their hidden treasures in order to share with everybody. I like that interpretation.

Perhaps this is why the idea of socialized medicine and universal health care appeal to me so much. We have so much wealth in our nation but so many have no access to any of it.

When I was a kid I rember going to Burger King and being shocked to notice that the same little container of milk like we got every day in our classroom for 2 cents cost 50 cents at Burger King. I was outraged! "Dad, look at this! What a rip off! Why are they charging so much money?" Dad explained to me that the 2 cents we paid at school every day was actually made available through subsidies. Burger King was charging what it really cost them (with I'm sure some profit) but without government subsidies, many children in our public schools could not have afforded their morning milk. This resonated with me.

I also remember my mom telling us that even people who didn't have kids paid for the school buses through their taxes. That was a new idea to me. I thought at the time that you'd only pay for the stuff that would benefit you personally. I think both of my parents helped me learn important lessons and I thank them both for that.

Susanne and I look forward to sharing things like this with our son too. A friend we know who is a Lutheran Pastor once told me that it's far better to see a sermon than to listen to one. Amen to that I say. -Monica

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