In 2006, I saw a popular movie starring Matthew McConaughey entitled “Failure to Launch.” McConaughey played a thirty-something young man who still lived at home with his parents and he had absolutely no interest in leaving their home. The premise of the movie revolved around his parent’s manipulations to get him out of the house. It was funny.
For most of us, getting started on life is not funny; it is hard work. For some it is a daunting task. Working a nine-to-five job for a long span of time can be overwhelming but that is the best way to get a home (which most of us want). Not only do we want a home but we also want a good job with medical benefits. We want other accommodations, good food, nice transportation, recreation. In the beginning, the novelty of getting started is thrilling, but very quickly we spend a lot of our time, effort, attention and money in the quest for more.
As we seek more, some people are glad to work forty hours but I have had some friends who work eighty-hour weeks. They have the idea that they will work as long as it takes to get the job done. They may want promotions or bonuses. Maybe they are big believers in the upward mobility ladder.
I had a friend at work who used the image of the merry-go-round a lot. That is what she felt about work, that it was a merry-go-round but upwardly mobile people don’t believe that. Instead of doing less, they do more.
I wanted a job. I wanted to teach. I wanted to teach college. I wanted a spouse. After accomplishing those goals, my wife and I wanted a child.
Like most of us, that brought concern for the future. I remember trying to secure my family’s future with an insurance policy. I wanted to be secure about life after work so I began investing in a 401K, so my son would not have to support me in my old age.
I never really felt poor.
My concerns about my life just did not go that way. Could they have gone that direction? Of course they could. Both my parents raised me to adulthood so I had a stable foundation. That’s not always the case for many. Education was a stable profession. If you worked at it and learned what is expected, it was not impossible to succeed. In my case, I already loved going to school so why would I not want to be a teacher?
I understood the classroom and I loved being in it to earn my living. And I was a successful teacher. I was blessed to teach thirty-six years and my wife was right along my side for thirty-one years as an elementary teacher and then seven as a tutor. She was a successful teacher too.
We were busy. We did not take time to think about other economic situations. The poor and downtrodden of society seemed so distant from our world. We did not have time to consider what to do for the poor. Actually we were so busy and focused on our own success that we barely considered helping those less fortunate.
Remember my colleague who used the merry-go-round image, well, my wife and I were on the merry-go-round of wanting more. Like many of us in this world, we measured our lives against what we did not yet have. We wanted new stuff, better stuff. The quest for “more” is a very normal life goal for the average American. It is just the way that life is for people who are blessed enough to be successful. Instead of finding folks in life who are getting along with less, we like to compare ourselves to others who have more and we want to be like them.
Should we feel guilty? I think the answer is no.
Should we be aware of the merry-go-round that we are on? I think the answer is yes.
There is a “movement” that has begun in our society that encourages people to live intentionally, paying attention to their choices, trying to raise awareness of how we all fit into society. If we are on a merry-go-round, at least be aware of it and maybe get off from time to time.
In the context of Pastor Labberton’s book , our quest for more gets in the way of helping others. For many of us, caught up in the quest for more, we are like “rubberneckers” on the highway. When we see poverty, “maybe we look, but then the momentum picks back up and we get on with where we are headed. We may not even remember we ever slowed down or saw anything that could keep us from the mall. And rubberneckers never help. They just slow things down and annoy everyone” [Labberton, 46].
You see, we are caught up in the quest. The pressure is on: just keep moving.
How about stopping, getting off and helping others less fortunate (from time to time)…
Novel idea, this intentional living movement.
Good for me.
Good for others.