Friday, October 14, 2011

Pry My Priorities from Me

Frequently in today’s media we hear complaining about how so many people just don’t have their priorities straight. Sometimes the people doing the complaining are doing it so vehemently they show just how out of whack their own priorities are. I’m going to chime in on the subject. Hopefully, I won’t expose personal deficits.

As an educator I am frequently trying to impress upon young minds what is important and more significantly, what is not important. First, let me say I do not take advantage of this opportunity to teach them Bugs Bunny is genuinely funny and the Three Stooges are not which I personally think is a very important distinction that all younger generations should have firmly placed in their aesthetic sensibilities. What I do try to impress upon students is that doing the right thing, including following the concept of treating others as you would like to be treated, caring for those less fortunate and choosing to open presents Christmas morning instead of Christmas Eve (okay, maybe I shouldn’t include that last one) is done simply because it is the right thing to do. I ask. I cajole. I plead. I lower myself to abject begging. I do all this with a level of success similar to the winning percentage of Kansas City Royals over the past decade. Then in walks the counselor with her stickers and everybody shapes up immediately.

Even though I appreciate the counselor helping this is a perfect example of priorities not being what they ought to be. A student is willing to sit in the cafeteria flicking bits of tater tot at his neighbor even after being chastised the previous day for throwing pieces of his pig-in-a-blanket. However, if the counselor offers a sticker to everyone sitting politely eating their lunch they all become the Stepford children, angelic examples of behavior. This says to me a child is not willing to behave in a positive manner because it is the right thing to do, but they are willing to do so for a brightly colored picture of a cartoon dog with glue on the back which will be in somebody’s trash can within next three hours.

I understand where they are coming from. People crave reward and often they would prefer tangible ones. I doubt I would show up for work each day if there was not a paycheck attached but I also realize that being kind to people and working hard to make their lives more pleasant or even easier is not part of my job description so it is not what I am paid to do. There have been times recently I was bothered that the people who are my superiors seem indifferent to the “soft” people skills I work very hard upon as long as I get the paperwork turned in on time. Even with those feelings, unfounded or not, I will continue to work towards kindness even if my reward is personal and not cool stuff. I will do this because my family instilled the ideas that kindness is what you do, that everyone is fighting some sort of battle and if you add to their load you are not behaving in a positive fashion.

Actually, I think my biggest concern is not that people cannot see what is important. It has more to do with people placing high value on things which are not important in the grand scheme of things. The other day there was a news story about a man who dropped his child in order to reach for a baseball hit into the stands. Let’s examine this decision for a moment. A man is holding his child, a person, a person who shares a great amount of his DNA, a person who depends upon the man for safety and protection, a person who will one day be selecting the man’s long term care facility. Into the equation we insert a baseball, ten dollars worth of cork, yarn and cowhide. Which should demand the man’s attention? If we believe the gentleman in Taiwan the cowhide wins. Now, if it was a ball Barry Bonds hit breaking one of the most revered records in baseball history which means catching the ball might make it possible to earn enough money to pay for the child’s college as well as buying yourself a contract for a really great long term care facility thus taking that decision out of the child’s hands maybe it would have been the right choice. After all, the kid didn’t break any bones or anything.
Christopher Pyle doesn’t think everyone should have the same priorities but the more people who agree with him the better. You can agree or disagree with him at