A Father’s Day Thought

June 18, 2011

I’m reading The Social Animal by David Brooks. (Yes, that one!) It’s sort of a work of fiction about an imaginary couple and, so far, their son. I’ve followed the relationship between Julia and Rob and have observed their son Harold from birth through, so far, his senior year in high school. Throughout, Mr. Brooks provides a ton of information about how people relate to one another and, in the process, learn and love.

So yesterday, I’m sharing with my wife how much success in life depends on the bonds we have with parents, other relatives, teachers, etc. Jane asked, if that’s so, how do we scale up when so many people don’t have these relationships in the right doses in their lives? A very good and very fair question, and one I pondered during my 90-second sojourn into the convenience store to buy a bottle of iced tea while we were hurrying to the movie.

The answer was evident as I opened the car door. We–Americans–do too much on the “one size fits all” plan. We make rules, we fund programs, and we measure results. When we don’t get the results we expect, we blame someone and move on to the next approach or, as often as not, to the next problem. Never mind the fact that there may never be a reason to believe our approaches might work; that’s how we roll! (Congress is judged by how much it spends on an issue. Thus, people can blame Congress for not supporting health care for seniors because Medicare reform eliminated $500 billion of wasteful spending. Better, perhaps, to waste the $500 billion over 10 years and prove to old folks that you’re on their side?) We have a template for addressing problems, and that’s that and that’s all!

Of course, the other element we cannot ignore is that fact that the problems many people deal with simply don’t affect the powerful, wealthy, achieving class. Our elites go to schools where teachers can give their students the attention they need. The powerful among us are not holding down two and three jobs, so they have the time–and money–to enrich their children’s lives. These people, when someone is ill, do not have to pass on mortgage payments to buy medicine. Thus, the power class can take comfort in the fact that their children learned in public schools and assume others are lazy or dumb. Etc.

None of what I’ve written will shock most anyone who knows me. That said, the epiphany for me was the fact that as we ignore our problems we are destroying our future, and that it’s not only about money. Our children need us, mindful of their mental, physical AND emotional development, if we want them to be successful. Yes, we need to focus more financial resources on our people and their needs, but we cannot buy solutions. We get solutions when we invest ourselves in others!!!

Happy Father’s Day

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