The daughter of a woman at church found out about 9 months ago that she was pregnant. This was a big deal because the woman was 40, and did not think she could get pregnant, to her, that window had closed. The whole extended family rallied around the pregnancy, her first, and excitement rose. There were complications, however, and a Caesarian was scheduled. Tensions were high, but so were expectations. Four days before the C-section, doctors learned the baby's umbilical cord had wrapped around its neck, and the baby was stillborn.
When things like this happen, my gutcheck reaction is to immediately wonder where God is, and why the hell he lets this shit happen. This, to me, is the truest sense of the word 'atrocity.' Pile the miracle of an unplanned, and against-the-odds, first-time pregnancy on top of a family that was so in love with the child, and then sweep the rug out from under it, then point and laugh at the family as they lay on the floor moaning. Then pour vinegar in their eyes. Like I said, atrocity.
And then, as I calmed down and stop railing against the Almighty (not a wise long-term strategy I am told), it really dawned on me how charmed my life has been. Born in a solid, loving family with two devoted-to-each-other parents, I have never known a broken home. My parents both took Federal jobs, my mom a school teacher and my father an air traffic controller. Both made decent livings, and both retired comfortably. We were never rich. But more importantly we were never poor either. I can remember eating entire boxes of Nutri-grain bars in a single sitting as a teenager, and somehow my parents kept more food coming. When I was 4 we moved to an affluent suburb of Kansas City (the Kansas side), where I attended top-notch public schools. Purely as a factor of my genetics, I was labeled "Gifted/Talented" and got a free pass for most of my abberant behavior, authority figures would just say I was "mischievous" as opposed to the non-gifted/talented kids, who upon doing the same abberant behavior were labled a future criminal. No one suggested to my parents that I be medicated. After 18 years of easy, middle/upper class white America, I went to college, where life was not as easy, but once again I really never suffered. When my finances were in disarray, someone was there to bail me out, be it the DoE or Mom and Dad. After college I went to grad school, did fine, met a beautiful woman and married her and had an adorable, smart, perfectly healthy baby girl. I work at a great job and have a comfortable apartment back in the suburbs of Kansas City. All four of my grandparents are alive and married, my parents are still married, I'm still married...everything is peachy-keen!
In all honesty, I have not suffered. Not once. Not really. I could go on and on about how easy my life has been, but let me just say that through some combination of God, Fate, genetics, good parenting, and luck, I've ended up with a charmed, easy life.
And so it sickens me to think I might sit in a cube, in a large room filled with other cubes, and work at some job, and at the end of my charmed, easy life, I will not have benefitted mankind at all, and the only people who will have reaped the benefits of my charmed, easy life will by my wife and kids.
To me, just doing a job is not enough. I certainly don't judge others who find that their job is a fulfilling way to enable them to get their "enough" outside of work. Some work terrible, thankless jobs like a slave so that their kids can have a charmed, easy life instead of them. My father is one of these people. Others work terrible, thankless jobs so they can afford to give mightily at church, or so they can take trips to help people in other countries, or so they can afford to send their kids on those trips. This is also a noble task.
And then there is the majority of the world. These people did not live a charmed, easy life. They had a tough childhood, or grew up in a tough neighborhood or a broken home. These people aren't (through no fault of their own, obviously) born in the 99th percentile of their peers, and don't have the luxury of barely studying and still making good grades. To these people, simply having a job might be a great success. Simply living might be a great success. To them, just getting through the day is their "enough."
But I am not those people. And neither is most of my regular readership. I know many of you personally, some very personally, and I know your backgrounds. I know what you have been through (or haven't) and I know of what you are capable. I know what you do with your free time, and I know what you don't do.
And to those of you who might, after reading this post, sit back and reflect on your own past and realize "I guess I have had it pretty easy, now that he mentions it" I have to ask you: are you doing "enough?" Are you going to retire an old man/woman and not think about how much better you made the world, but instead think how much better you made the world for your yourself and your kids, and hope they, instead of you, are the ones who don the mantle of responsibility to throw away their lives for mankind? Are you going to work at a thankless job, living for the weekend, so that your 'career' really is just a game of 'happiness hopscotch' endlessly repeated until you are too old to hop anymore?
To some, that may be enough. But people like me, the gifted, tiny little top of the social caste, who never knew oppression, or hurt, or hunger, or pain; it is truly the hardest thing you have thus far done in your life if you realize that your life is not normal and you should not be living it thusly.
I realize this may fall on deaf ears, because most consider their lives to not really be under their control. And to that I respond: "that is true for everyone except you." The only life you can control, the only path you can define, the only person you can really, truly affect is you.
And so I beseech you blessed few; you rich, white kids reading this: live your life for others. I'm not talking about dropping coins in the Salvation Army bucket in front of Target, that's chicken shit. I'm talking about seriously looking at your life, and saying "in the bell curve of human existences, I am waaaaaaaaaaay down at the far right end, and I didn't really do anything to deserve it, so maybe I should start acting a little grateful."
For my part, I would be amiss if I didn't practice what I preach. Although my 9-5 job does directly help humanity (developing bio/chem warfare sensors), it isn't "enough." Starting tomorrow, I will be recruiting a small group of richly blessed, charmed people like me to join in a non-secret society whose primary purpose will be to engineer cheap, effective technologies for the poor. The rules of the society will be this: all intellectual property rights from technologies developed are equally owned by all members of the society, all revenue from the technologies will be given to charity, and each member will be required to donate all time, resources, and ideas to the effort. I may not be good at much, but I am good at engineering and at pushing people into doing something.
And so having been given everything by the world, the best thing I can give back is my mind.