Something happened the other day that really upset me. I had to stop and think about why I got upset. And it became clear that it was just another example of something that defines life around me today and why this presidential election is so important. We often complain as parents that kids nowadays just think they are so entitled. My kids are grown and now get it. But many people my kids’ ages just don’t get it. And that’s what was illustrated by my neighbor. I mostly ignore my neighbors and keep to myself. Mostly because I’m very busy. And mostly because our houses are very close together. Too close.
When the young family moved in next door with two grade schoolers, I was very busy. And because at least four other families have moved into this rental over the past six years, I’ve learned how to be a good, hands-off neighbor. Because of an odd configuration, this family planted a small patch of garden right into the street, making clear access to parking in front of my house problematic. It was inappropriate to say the least. Now, there’s a huge bunch of vegetation protruding into the street. I’ve never said anything about it, as it’s somewhat harmless, but again, their thought process was definitely single-minded and self-serving, as most people seem to be these days.
It was garbage day. I was good and put my can out the night before. Now, I come home at lunch. So, I drove down the street to see my neighbor, who is some sort of stay at-home or work-at-home dad, sauntering toward my garbage can with a small grocery bag of garbage and he proceeds to put it in my can. Now, I don’t know where you live, but the price of utilities and services are out of control here. I pay an obnoxious amount for that can – for just myself. It’s true, I rarely fill it. But – that’s not the point.
This guy is sauntering back to his place as I pull into my drive, slam on my brakes, get out and slam my door. Typical passive-aggressive behavior. I was ashamed of that, but I was so angry, I was afraid of what a direct confrontation would look like. He apologized. I said at least he could have asked. He said he didn’t think I’d mind, as his was full. He went to my can and took out his garbage. I just mumbled that he certainly didn’t think about things.
Now, really, I don’t mind sharing. I’d gladly share if he would have ever made any overture toward asking me about anything he has done next door. But, in his mind, I’m just a cranky old woman. He doesn’t get it.
That’s my can. I pay for it. “I built it.” I’ve lived in the community 30 years and I’m paying through the nose for everyone else who moves in recently and think it’s all theirs for the couple of years they live here before moving on. I’ve served in our government, volunteered, watched it change (just like everyone who sees their towns change over their lifetimes) and I work here.
Since my neighbor can’t seem to control his trash production, why does that become my responsibility? If he needs a bigger can, perhaps it’s his responsibility to pony up and pay for it? I know – these are not “progressive” ideas. These are choice and accountability ideas. Yes, I live alone and don’t often fill the can. But, for many years, I did. And sometimes, I didn’t have room and I saved the trash into the next week. I didn’t even think that someone else owed me their can. I thought it was like stealing.
But now? They seem to think it’s the socialist republic of Elm Street. I somehow owe my neighbor space in my garbage can, because I don’t use it all. It’s the “redistribution of wealth” isn’t it? In this case, it’s space in my can. In another, it’s paying for one’s success by giving your money to the government to take care of entitlements.
If you think this thought process is a stretch, would you let someone splice into your cable, or your water line, or your electrical box. Would you let someone tell you what to put into your cart at the grocery store to buy for them? Why not? When we let others force the decision of whether or not we give or share, it is no longer charity, but appropriation. A big word for stealing.
To say the least, Mitt Romney understands this and I”m praying that this nation is able to see the light by election day. As of this day, both Obama and Biden have made fools of themselves in the debates, by showing the differences in what we are facing into the next four years – and well beyond. It is possible that true principles of choice and accountability can be reinstituted in this country. I’m praying that it can.