By Brian Boyer, Marketing Communications Advisor, Urban Alliance
We've all heard the slang terms used callously by many to describe the homeless: Bum; bag lady; vagrant; and derelict, to name just a few. Most of us don't stare in the mirror, look into our own eyes and lump ourselves into any of these categories. Words like wino, street person and crack head are strictly reserved for the people in society at opposite ends of the social and economic spectrum than we classify ourselves.
But what happens when that gap narrows, and the economic status of the solid working middle-class family in the suburbs starts to resemble that of the down and out city dweller digging through the trash for his next meal? On the other hand, what would happen if the mentality of "us versus them" evolved into "all of us" in one society, where each link is only as strong as the next?
You, me and the neighbor next door
I visited a friend recently in a bucolic New England town where Land Rovers barely outnumber picket fences and private backyard tennis courts. My friend's neighbor was a gentleman with a witty personality and quick sense of humor. We often traded barbs about our differences in rooting interests during football season. On this trip, with both of our teams out of contention, I was looking forward to sharing in the misery of another season gone awry. But much to my chagrin, the house now sat vacant. "What happened?"
Modest only by personality, this senior-level executive at a local corporation fell victim to downsizing. He was let go with little severance, and no longer had the means to afford the mortgage of his palatial surroundings. Last I heard, he had retreated to a much smaller home on the other side of the town, and was treated for ulcers and anxiety by his doctor. Maybe the prospect of sending two kids to college caused his health issues.
If this could happen to an Ivy-educated man in the prime of his career, what's to say it could not happen to my friend, or even worse...to me.
A 'disease' called narcissism
For just a moment, let's consider a Utopian society where we actually think about what's not only good for us and our interests, but also for those around us. For the sake of not overwhelming ourselves with selflessness, let's even take a slight step back and imagine that maybe when others succeed, we too may benefit in the long run. My friend in New England knows that when his neighbor faced foreclosure and the house next door went vacant, the value of his home also took a hit. While this may not be the Great Depression, I can say with certainty that there are many people deeply depressed about the job crisis in our country and beyond. But it is time - now more than ever - that we start to embrace interdependence and shift our thinking from "us versus them" to "all of us."
Part of the problem, or part of the solution
For those media junkies that turn on the television or pick up a newspaper before the morning's first cup of coffee, we're ambushed by issues like the fiscal cliff, the job crisis, school violence, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, what's missing is the follow up story about what is being done to create solutions to these problems. I am not suggesting we sit around the fire singing "Kumbaya" while holding hands. But I do think we need to stop looking the other way when it comes to the jobs and financial crisis. Whether you're employed or unemployed, we're in the same boat, and there is a good chance that at some point, our jobs status will overlap.
This is an evolution in the way we as humans think. Cast aside the narcissism, the self-indulgence and the self-centered nature inherent in many of us, and start to recognize that we're all connected now more than ever. Whether you know it or not, your role will determine whether we as a society succeed or fail. Ask yourself, "Why is it important for all of us to succeed?" It's because when families are prospering economically, more money is pumped into the local economy and our communities are stronger and more sustainable. That's good for all of us.
The economy may be wrinkled and a little bit haggard, but let's not dig its grave just yet. You can still write the final act, but it will take some deep thought and more than a little perseverance.
It's your turn to join a powerful movement to overcome the challenges of our struggling economy. You should feel empowered to be part of the solution, and to partner with nonprofits like the Urban Alliance, which assists "under-resourced youth to aspire, work and succeed through paid internships, formal training, and mentorship." This is the epitome of what it means to work together, as a collective whole.
My hope after you read this is that at least part of you feels inspired to take action and see the world from a slightly different perspective. Your motives may be hope, a desire to help, or simply to benefit yourself or your family. Now is the time for us to step up, put our antiquated ways of thinking aside and work together for the common good. This, universally, is the right business model for all of us to follow...together.
Should you wish to contribute to Urban Alliance through the JobRaising Challenge, please visit our Crowdrise page at the following address: http://www.crowdrise.com/urbanalliance-jr