“No one promised you fair,” Mom would always quip when some unearned indignity had been visited upon me in my callow youth. I thought her quite unsympathetic. Her words of wisdom, however, stayed with me my entire life. So what does this have to do with anything?
Most of us want to be ‘good’ and to also earn what is our due from our efforts. We put in the work and thought to add value and earn relevance. That is a social contract of sorts. But the truth is, bad things can happen even to those who are doing everything they ought to be doing – good people – hardworking and honest – rule abiding. Here’s the hard truth. There is no guarantee that you will be safe if you behave yourself. Sometimes, unearned bad things happen. It’s a hard lesson when it hits you.
Our first impulse is to blame ourselves; we must have done something wrong. If, upon reflection, we really did nothing wrong, our second impulse is to rail against the universe.
Then we dust ourselves off; learn more skills so we are a little bit better inured against the vagrancies of fate; cross our fingers that our life will go as planned for a while; figure out what we need to do to be relevant again and then do it. Our life is our responsibility. It’s not fate’s job, the weather’s job, the union’s job, our employer’s job, our spouse’s job, not even Mom’s job – although I’d like it to be. I am responsible for fitting into my life. I sometimes blend my energy with other people and organizations so we can develop synergies (e.g., the union, a company, our spouse and families, the community, our nation…), but the job in mine first and foremost.
And then we lend our voice and efforts to make our laws and communities fair and just so that all of us face less unearned indignities – and follow up. It is our duty to do so.