Anything Useful in Your Jeans?

We have genes for usefulness.
                              — Lewis Thomas, Lives of a Cell

My world changed when I read Thomas Lewis’ Lives of a Cell. It’s a collection of essays by a world-class physician, researcher and administrator (Director of the Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Research Center in New York). One summer night, driving through rural Connecticut, he was struck by how the fertile earth seemed to him like a living cell, exchanging nutrients and energy, cooperating in an orgy of chaos and order.

“Service is the rent we pay for living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.

Education is for improving the lives of others and leaving your community and world better than you found it.”
                            — Marion Wright Edelman, Children’s Defense Fund

There’s a theme here, about service after success and based upon that success. I was trained that the ultimate privilege is to be so successful that you had the means and mentality to serve the community, one way or another. Those who so served therefore distinguished themselves from those who either could not or would not serve the community.

In that way they distinguished themselves from less successful people, who lacked the outer or inner wealth to serve others’ needs. Another way one might distinguish oneself would be to not cheat or lie. When receiving incorrect change in your favor, one had two choices: correct the error or pocket the tiny windfall which declared you to be someone in such poor shape that the pittance mattered to you.

Loyalty Downward

Aaron Feuerstein is in the news again this spring. Mr Feuerstein is the owner of Malden Mills in Lawrence Massachussets, founded by his family in 1906. The last time you heard of him was in 1995, when the mill suffered a disastrous fire, yet he kept the payroll going and fired no one. That would be extraordinary enough, but it’s downright miraculous when you discover that Malden Mills is one of the last textile mills in America. This is an almost impossible business under the best of circumstances.

Malden Mills’ insurance covered only 75% of the rebuilding costs, so Malden filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001. Its creditors include GE Capital, SunAmerica and some private investors. Are we surprised that the creditors fought the reorganization every step of the way?

Let the Lady Speak

I can’t improve on the sentiments expressed by Marion Wright Edelman on her quotations page. Read her wisdom. Is there anything each of us can do, today, to make the world a little better. Not just social software or revising the world economy, but something here and now.

We have genes for usefulness.

11:32:53 PM    

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