Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hope for the Hapless

A black pistol rested atop a milk colored Formica countertop, its shape caught my attention as soon as I entered the room. Have you ever noticed fake guns are always thinner than real ones? Real guns have girth; a thickness metal provides that separates them from their plastic brethren you see in toyshops and at the movies.

Was it a Glock? A .22 caliber maybe? Is that thing street legal? I wondered if it was loaded as I sat down, even closer to the matte black weapon. I eyed the trigger, with one pull someone could die I thought as my palms began perspiring.

A paper plate holding a still-smoking hamburger patty replaced the weapon on the counter as my host casually went about serving dinner. A thought dashed through my mind, I’m not complaining about this meal, that’s for certain.

I once heard someone describe Southerners (read rednecks) as militia-ready, armed to the teeth, good ole boys that took matters into their own hands a bit more than the law would like. Any impulse I had to trespass dissipated at that point, and has yet to return. No empirical data to back this claim up, but shootings from trespassing incidents rarely end up being prosecuted in this neck of the woods if you know what I mean.

In life, even at a casual cookout, dangerous situations arise without warning. When you watch as many Dateline and 48 Hours episodes as I, you realize the absolute unpredictableness of crime. Things rarely go from orderly to murder in a liner way. It’s more like drawing a line on a piece of paper on a train ride, where the intention and the result differ greatly. Life is just as unpredictable if not more so than those televised weekend mysteries, just not always made so public.

On the day of a great musician’s death he gets sued, an election-year president goes on record with a firm position on a polarizing issue, a CEO with no need to lie does, and every need to properly apologize doesn’t, and a once credible news organization facilitates a Q&A with Snooki of Jersey Shore fame, and this is all just from the past week. We live in such an unpredictable world that the only thing we can really count on is unpredictability. If life is going to toss us around like a salad at Olive Garden, why aren’t we ready, prepared, and helping others as they go through the seasickness of life’s constant turbulence. Why do we pretend that everyone should be self reliant, oft in brazen casualness, when the vestige of once well mannered lives stand in plain view? Now there’s a question for Snooki.

Helping others, even dying for them, we’re taught is the ultimate expression of love, and adds a layer to meaning of our lives that virtually no other act can bestow. The good book offers John 15:13, Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (NIV). Even the box office record-breaking Avengers movie utilizes this dramatic arc in a pivotal scene in the film in which Iron Man takes a nuclear missile into a space seemingly sacrificing his life for mankind, yet (spoiler alert) returns safely to earth just before being vanished into the ether. Whether from God or Stan Lee, the point remains that giving, even at a fatal cost, is the most honorable thing we can do as humans. Yet we struggle to keep this at the forefront of our priorities, don’t we? If we didn’t there wouldn’t be 2,000 thread count sheets, because we would’ve spent all that money on insecticide treated bed nets to end Malaria.

Marxist theories aside, why are we dispositioned to constantly struggle for our own gain in a world where we are taught the ultimate gain comes from helping others? If you look at those that have all the financial wherewithal in the world like Putin or Bloomberg, what you see today are people at their core that in some fashion are trying to help others, or at least utilize such provincial power to be perceived as doing such.

Recently a group of do-gooders decided to tone down the Broadway version of Mary Poppins enough for Autistic children to enjoy it. The result? A weekend sellout and lives changed in a profound way for the better. Are we always losing if we’re helping others? Can’t we all win from the art of assisting those in need? I think so.

I rarely write about my own business ventures, because frankly they’re boring. Unless I’m talking to someone sleep deprived looking for something dull enough to doze her off, I try to steer clear of the topic. Today however I think a nugget about my business experience might help, and here it is; when thinking of a business don’t think about how to make money, think about how to profoundly help fix a problem that many people encounter. Help is the operative word here, you might not be able to fix the problem, but you might help the fixing of it. Big difference here. I can’t help all self published authors reach the levels of exposure big imprints do, but I can help contribute, maybe even shine some light on an idea or two that gets remixed into something bigger, bolder, and you guessed it, helpful for others in a profound way.

The times I’ve thought about making money as the primary objective with a business they always seem to end with the floor filled with pools of blood worthy of a dead ox, conversely when I’ve thought of sincerely and earnestly solving a big problem things worked out pretty good, at least well enough to keep me riding the roller coaster they call entrepreneurship.

There’s hope for the hapless if we intend for such. How much do we really need, and how much can we really give are questions I think about a lot. Maybe now you will too.