A few years ago I swore off of writing on political topics. The frustration level just got to be too much to bear. But the recent advent of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests and the attack on capitalism has prompted back into political action.
Those who know me well know that gardening is one of my passions and I’ve found over the years, and used, gardening as a fantastic metaphor for so many things in life. I want to relate a conversation I had nearly 20 years with an old neighbor of mine when I lived in the rich low-country of South Carolina. My property backed up to the Francis Marion National Forest and was some of the richest, most fertile soil you could ever imagine. For someone who loved gardening that grew up in the Texas panhandle where the only good crops are wheat and tumbleweeds, it was a gardener’s paradise. My garden was a massive thing of beauty bearing far more than I could ever consume and I basically fed myself year round and gave away enough produce to feed a small army.
My neighbor, George, was a dual-government pension drawing retiree. He spent 20 years in the Navy, then another 20 at the Navy Shipyards in nearby Charleston. He should have been doing very well for himself but was burdened with 5 children who had all gone off to have a litter of kids of their own, then moved back home with kids in tow. All totaled, there were usually over 20 people living in his home. All of the children were drawing some sort of government assistance. They were all young and fit, but simply too lazy to work.
At one of our many fence-line conversations, George began talking about how the government needed to “do more”. After listening for as long as I could about how the government wasn’t doing enough for his multitude of kids and grandkids, I was about to break off the conversation when George said the magic words.
“The wealthy capitalists aren’t doing their fair share to support those in need.” George said. I simply couldn’t hold my tongue any longer. As I said, it’s been nearly 20 years and my memory isn’t what it used to be, but the following is my recollection of the ensuing conversation.
“George, we’ve both got really nice gardens, don’t we?”
Puzzled by my change of topics, George answered, “Yes Monty, we sure do.”
“You put up a lot of produce out of your garden to feed your family through the winter.”
“Now I grow a lot more than I can ever eat and I have given you a lot of fruit and vegetables, and you’ve even given me a few things that I don’t grow like pears and watermelons.”
“Yes, that’s right,” George responded, wondering where I was going with this.
“George, what if next year I decided not to grow a garden, would you still share with me?”
“Of course I would, we’re neighbors.”
“So because we’re neighbors you have a responsibility to share with me even if I decide not to grow a garden, is that right?”
“Well, not so much a responsibility, it’s just the right thing to do,” George answered.
“So George, how much would you be willing to share with me if I didn’t raise my own garden?” I asked.
“As much as I could spare.”
“So you would be willing to give me anything that you didn’t need, right?”
“Yes I would.”
“But what if I felt like what you gave me wasn’t enough? What if we met at this fence and you handed me a sack of vegetables and I told you I wanted more than that, how would that make you feel?”
“Okay”, he responded, “I see where you’re going with this, but that’s different.”
“Because we’re neighbors helping neighbors and we do that because we want to help each other.”
“Okay George, so if you give me a sack of produce and I go complain to the Berkeley County Courthouse that you aren’t giving me enough to live on and they then order you to give me more, you’d be okay with that?”
“No, this is still different. As neighbors, the right thing for me to do is to give you anything I don’t need“.
“But who determines how much you need?”
“Well, me and my family do.”
“And what if I disagree? What if the county disagrees and they tell you to take some of what you preserved for the winter, your savings for the future, and give to me?”
“No, my primary obligation is to take care of my family first and it’s no one elses business how much I choose to give away!”
“Bingo! Have a good evening George, it’s been nice talking to you.”
Monty Rainey is a District Manager working in the self storage industry since 1996 and currently overseeing 21 stores in the Austin & San Antonio, TX area. He is also a leadership coach and public speaker. For a free consultation, please contact Monty at 830-743-2139 or visit his website at http://www.montyrainey.com .