This time of year always causes me to reflect on the past as I look to the coming year. One thing that has struck me is the wealth of support and encouragement that I get from family, friends, and colleagues. I’ve also been struck by the tone over the past year of individuals or groups proclaiming to be independently successful and dismissive of those who do not possess, or outwardly show, the badges of success.
I do not believe for a second that any one person is a totally self made success. Each of us relies on the collective efforts of our society to fully realize the most benefit of our own innate talents and hard work. The innovators, business captains, and other successful individuals we see daily would not be there but for a teacher, clerk, mentor, employee, or some other person that provided a hand or service that furthered the efforts of the individual.
I have had successes (and failures) and I have enjoyed the rewards of those successes. I could credit my own hard work and determination as the sole source of my success. Likewise, I could blame others (taking no personal responsibility) for my failures or shortcomings. Both would be wrong.
This past year I have seen far too much of this approach. It has manifested itself in animosity towards immigrants, the poor, public institutions and their employees. We have seen calls to slash funding for public institutions that keep us safe, educate our children, or minister to our infirm. It has manifested itself under labels of tax reform and various “crack downs” on perceived systemic failures. It has been a concerted effort by those that have benefited the most to shift the financial burden to others under the claim that they achieved financial success all on their own and are somehow being deprived of their fair share.
To be sure, we must manage our public resources and institutions wisely. But we must also recognize and appreciate the part each of us play in the success or failure of our society. I stand upon the shoulders of those that have gone before me: the soldiers that risked or sacrificed their lives, the union members that fought for better wages and labor conditions, the working men and women that paid their taxes that I might be safe, secure, and well educated. God strike me if I refuse to give a hand up to those striving to improve, refuse to willingly contribute my share to provide essential services for all, or claim I owe no duty to our community at large.
This coming year, pledge to be the mentor to someone striving to improve their lot; be the volunteer that assists a family or individual in need; or be the person that seeks to understand those adverse to your personal interests so that you might find common ground. Be the person that understands our success or our failure as a society makes our individual successes and failures inseparable.
Make next year better for yourself and those around you.
Happy new year!