A humbling experience and time to reflect

This post has nothing to do with pharmacy, automation or technology. In fact, it is decisively about a personal experience. I wasn’t going to post this, but a little voice kept gnawing at the back of my mind. In hopes of calming the voice I decided to put pen to paper.

My girls started back to school a few weeks ago. And with the new school year comes a flood of things that need to be purchased; clothes, school supplies, etc. My oldest daughter, Josslyn, was taking an advanced math course. One of the requirements was a rather fancy, high dollar calculator. I never doubted that we’d buy it for her because after all, the teacher said she needed it. And besides, I’m a calculator geek. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

A few days after ordering my daughter’s calculator from Amazon the thought occurred to me that not every family would be able to afford something like this. I’ve been blessed. I have the means to purchase things that others may not. So I decided to purchase two additional calculators and give them to the teacher to pass on to some kids that might not have the money to buy one.

I hadn’t given it a second thought until I received a couple of thank you letters from the students that had received the calculators. This was quite unexpected as I thought I would remain anonymous, but it was a pleasant surprise nonetheless.

As I read through one of the letters the student described being thrilled to receive such a gift. Apparently s/he and his/her mom had been trying to decide how to afford such a thing and were thinking they were going to have to spend “money set aside for groceries” to purchase the calculator. I was instantly humbled. I sat there thinking about this kid and their situation and was hit by a flood of emotions I’d not experienced since, well, I can’t remember when. I felt sadness, then a bit of shame followed by anger and finally outrage. Outrage that a family would have to make such a decision in this country. Outrage at myself for not thinking more about others. This is the United States of America. The United States of America! This is the greatest country on earth. The land of the free and the home of the brave. And no child in this country should ever go without food, shelter, medical care or the chance at a good education. No family should have to make a decision like that. If you disagree with me, you can kiss my ass because that’s the way it should be. Period. Non-negotiable.

But the United States is also the place where the NFL goes on strike to decide how to split up $9 billion, or where the NBA is thinking of striking because they want more money. Somehow multiple millions isn’t enough. This is also the country where excess is better. We are all guilty of thinking of the next plasma screen TV, the next best smartphone, etc.

When the anger and outrage subsided I began to reflect on what makes us who we are in this crazy world. There are millions of hard working, intelligent people in the United States, but not all of them “make it”. Why? I can’t pretend to know such a thing. Those answers are beyond my comprehension. I know I am where I am today simply by God’s Grace. To think otherwise would be foolish.

I come from fairly humble beginnings. I never went without anything important, but there were times when things were tight. Now that’s nothing but a fading memory because I have a great life. I’m blessed with a great job, a good living, a home, a wonderful wife and children and too many other things to mention. To think of how many things had to go right for me to end up where I am today makes my head spin. There are simply too many times during my life when I could have gone down a different road and ended up in a very different place. A single wrong decision along the way and I might be the one having to make those tough decisions. I think it’s important for us to remember that the difference between those that are “rich” and those that are “poor” is little more than a break here or a break there. Hard work, intelligence and determination only plays a small part; at least not as big a part as many would have you believe.

I think of all the things in the news and realize just how lost our country is. We prioritize things that just don’t seem that important and trivialize the things that are. We’ve managed to create a system of “haves” and “have nots”, and the “haves” get to dictate what kind of lives the “have nots” live. I’ve had the displeasure recently of listening to people speak about their beach homes and trips to Europe in one breath, while talking about how the poor are “draining our country’s resources” in another. It’s disturbing on an unimaginable scale, and I have no idea what to do about it.

My trial of the Sunday NFL Ticket was up on Monday. My wife asked me if I was going to continue with the NFL Ticket or cancel it. Heck it was “only” $300. I love football, more than most people think is sane, but after my humbling experience there was only one thing to do. I cancelled the NFL Ticket and wrote out a couple of checks to some local charities. To do anything else would have been unthinkable.

6 thoughts on “A humbling experience and time to reflect”

  1. We’ve managed to create a system of “haves” and “have nots”, and the “haves” get to dictate what kind of lives the “have nots” live. I’ve had the displeasure recently of listing to people speak about their beach homes and trips to Europe in one breath, while talking about how the poor are “draining our country’s resources” in another. It’s disturbing on an unimaginable scale, and I have no idea what to do about it.

    This issue has been bothering me too. It’s nice to hear that others have a conscience about it, and realize these widening disparities aren’t going to create good outcomes for our nation.

    I have no idea what to do about it either, but I think people aren’t going to be able to sit on the fence about it if it persists, and will “have” to seriously decide which side to take.

  2. Jay,

    This is the most beautiful piece you’ve ever written, and I understand your heart more than most.

    Our country has definitely lost its way, and like you I sit around and think “How can I change this?” Then life interrupts and I give up.

    I wish I had an answer to share. One thing is clear, you did the right thing, which eludes most people.

    Grandpa Jay would be proud.

  3. Absolutely wonderful piece! Thank you for writing what many of us feel, but don’t take the time to share with others. I will pass your article on in hopes of inspiring those who may have forgotten how lucky they are.

  4. Jerry, what a wonderful act, and what a beautiful reflection on it. As others above have said, it is shocking that so (relatively) few take such a community-minded and unselfish view of the world as you express. It is worldviews like yours that have made this country great, and the “I-got-mine,hands-off” worldview that holds the seeds of its destruction. Thanks so much for this great post. Here’s to holding onto living as if “we’re all in this together”, and acting with the understanding that we will rise or fall together.

  5. Jerry: I had stopped coming by your site after your take a break post in June. Then, I saw in my google reader you had new content.

    Love this post! Marvelous outcome from an unexpected action. Like you, I have been lucky to enjoy technology and think nothing of getting the latest and greatest thing…

    I think from now on… the expression getting 2 for 1 will take on a different meaning.

    Well done! Cheers, Grant

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