Monday, November 07, 2011

Marathons and Giving Birth

Carol Burnette once said, "If you want to understand the pain of giving birth, grab your bottom lip and pull it over your head". These words of wisdom came to Bill Cosby during the birth of his first child when he recalled being supportive and encouraging to his wife. As his words of encouragement only caused agitation to his dear wife he says, "She stood up in the stirrups, grabbed my bottom lip, and waited for one final contraction...."

I guess misery loves company sometimes more than it loves empathy.

There are just some things that you have to experience to truly appreciate and if the best you can do is observe from afar, your best efforts to empathize will fall flat.

In just a week my wife will run in her first marathon. She has been extremely diligent in her training, she has improved in her ability to run long distances, and has even been able to improve her time per mile. Last week she asked me to join her as she completed a 20 mile run. By join her, that meant to hop on my bike and ride while she ran. Do you know how hard it is to ride 20 miles at runner's pace? After 10 miles I began feeling the pain in my back side, 15 miles led to sore wrists, and by the time my wife casually ran 18 miles, the sun was beating down on me and was causing great discomfort. Throughout the process I tried to keep encouraging my wife as she ran but for some reason, each mile she ran she was less interested in hearing me talk and even less interested in hearing me say something encouraging like, "You only have 5 more miles to go" or, "That first 19 miles went by like a breeze." No matter how much I tried to be encouraging, it was met with indifference. This made me recall the process of sitting with my wife while giving birth (while she gave birth). No amount of, "you are doing great", or "just a little more" can help the situation. The best I could do was to sit there in silence knowing that this is not the time for empathy, it is the time for silence. Without ever experiencing the process of giving birth, one cannot relate unless he pulls his bottom lip over his head. Running a marathon is very similar and that is why when WE completed OUR 20 mile training run I told my wife how great she did, she leaned over to me bringing her lips close to mine, and then she gently put her hands on my face, grabbed my bottom lip and pulled.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Occupy Movement on Wrong Street

They "occupy" movement that gained ground over the past month is an interesting study in human psyche. This movement contains thousands of people gathering in locations across the country (and the globe) protesting something. I use the word "something" because it is unclear what that "something" is. Some say it is about the distribution of wealth, some say it is against corrupt government, others are protesting jobless rates, and many are just looking for something to do.

The slogan used is 99% vs the 1%. At its core, the protest seems to be about the inequality of the wealthiest 1% of people vs the 99% of everyone else. The reality is that this is just fancy jargon that ignores many other percentages that, in the end, will accomplish nothing to help distribute wealth among all people.

This use of fancy jargon puts the emphasis in the wrong places. Sure it is hard to believe that some people make so much money but how many of these protesters are using their wealth to distribute to the biggest percentage of the 99%? Over 64% of the world has wealth less than $10,000. 92% of the world possesses wealth less than $100,000. This is not income, this is the entire value of assets. So if you own a car, have a little equity in a home, and an annual income that adds up to more than $100,000 you are in the elite 7% of the wealthiest people on earth.

In my family, we are in the middle of the pack for American income but we are in the elite 7% of the world's wealthiest people.

Because of this fact, we share some of our wealth to support kids in poverty, to build wells in countries with no access to safe and clean water, and to feed the hungry in our community. We never say things like, "we are broke" or , "we are poor". We do not have much compared to the rest of our community in Orange County, but we are wealthy.

I am a strong supporter of taking care of "orphans and widows", of feeding the hungry, and of defending the oppressed. I believe that those who are blessed with more should be willing to take care of those who do not have enough. If the occupy movement wants to make a difference, the protest needs to move from Wall Street to Main Street. We need to create a culture where we are content with what we have and do something good within our abilities. If we want to protest, we can tell congress to get to work or we will vote them out , we can take our business away from organizations that are greedy and unethical, and we can bring our business to those who do positive things with their wealth. (Ironically some of the most charitable companies such as Wells Fargo Bank are being protested by the occupy movement).