“No matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger that its weakest people, and as long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you might otherwise.”
The chain is no stronger than its weakest link. Our national (for me global chain, you know I’m not fond of borders) chain is full of ‘weakest links,’ those who are keeping people down, and by doing so are denying themselves their own flight into true freedom. Some I consider to be in this category (but great news! If they stop doing it, they return to shiny, unbreakable forged steel immediately):
Anyone who still uses the antiquated and antipathethic “they just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps” pontification. The people they’re talking about don’t have bootstraps, or boots, or the means to acquire them. Anyway, they don’t need boots so much as compassion.
*Try buying boots when you’re followed and given the evil eye the second you walk into a store.
*Try buying boots with the food stamps you’ve been forced to use because you left an abusive husband and brought 4 kids and a cat with you and you’re all sleeping on a cousin’s screened porch.
*Try buying boots when you’re ashamed to go into the store in your unwashed clothes -can’t do laundry because you don’t have running water.
*Try getting a job to buy boots when you don’t have clothes to wear to the interview.
*Try buying boots when no one in the store will talk to you because you are clearly homeless and as such you are assumed to be schizophrenic or alcoholic, or both, but you’re just another college-educated victim of the sub-prime fiasco and lost your home.
If any of the ‘bootstraps pundits’ ever lived those situations -as in “they need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps-I did (pause for appreciative applause)!”–congratulations to them. I guarantee those folks had at least one role model or mentor to help them along the way. That’s the one advantage that nearly always produces success–just one supportive adult. Without that support, the people in the examples above probably never even had somebody teach them to tie a shoelace.
What if every bootstrap person decided to mentor an inner city child from elementary school through college, like my friend Donna? or taught groups of children math and science, and gave them computers, like my friend Bill? or met a teacher at said inner city school, and ended up ‘adopting’ the kids there to the tune of thousands of dollars in assistance and hundreds of volunteer mentor hours, like my friends Micki and Suzanne? or gave a group of kids (yes, still at my school) cameras and taught them to turn their world into art, like my friend Jose? or invites these kids to sing at big events at the Orange County Regional History Center and makes them feel like little American Idols, like my friend Paul? or is singlehandedly handing –not boots–running shoes to Central Florida’s homeless to help them get literally and figuratively back on their feet, like my friend Claire? or worked tirelessly to help our youngest citizens-our babies-like my friend Linda? Or fights the daily equality fight for our kids at (yes, again) my school, like my friends Amy, Sarah, Kim, Ashley, Ashley, Jodi, Amanda, Becky, Donna, Ashley, Nettie, Lino, Holly, Peggy, Lindsey, Susan, Barb, Barb, Shaun, Abby, Bevan, Felicia, Audra, Amy, Carol, Katundra, Ruth, Laverne, Cherie.…..(the list does go on)?
Yep, I’ve got some pretty great friends. Gleaming, unbreakable PLATINUM links in the American chain. They know the real truths: We are all connected. No one is more ‘entitled’ than anyone else. A life of service is what it’s all about. Hopefully the gleam of their compassion will meld onto nearby links in the chain that may need a little polish, which could come in the form of inspiration, or in the form of a reminder of what’s really important in this life. MAYBE the weakest links will take that inspiration to the anvil and re-forge themselves through helping someone in need.
Empathy. Compassion. Love. (no, we shall not join hands and sing “Kum bah ya” here)
But I’ll still say it, cheesy as it is: