Judging your life

“What if a life was judged not by its monetary worth or possible economic benefit to society, but as a series of complex and rewarding relationships?” Globe and Mail.

I have reread this quote over and over again to myself for it has so much meaning,  application and implications to my own life.  I know that I wouldn’t have given this quote the time of day if it wasn’t for raising a child with severe handicaps for I am part of the economic philosophy and generation of my time that your worth is defined by more external measures.

For me it dates back to my first job at 10 years of age, where I had a serious babysitting gig earning $2/hr and saved over $500 in 2 years. At 13, I was working for my dad selling hockey programs and tickets at the local Jr. A hockey arena during game night and at 14, I was employed by St. Cinnamon, making cinnamon buns at the local mall.  I don’t even think I was legal to work back then but somehow I made it happen.  At 16 I worked at Canadian Tire and continued with various other jobs right through University. The fact that I graduated from a top school in Canada with a Commerce degree is no coincidence.

My goal was to work downtown Toronto in one of the high rises, wearing a power suit,  making the big bucks and living the grand life travelling the world.   At school we were practically conditioned for such pursuits and made to believe that this was THE path to follow.  I didn’t end up pursuing this path upon graduation, another post is needed to address the reasons around that,  but what stuck with me over these years is that those that are deemed successful are the ones that have climbed the corporate ladder and are making tons of money and have the materialistic products to prove it -nice cars, big houses, vacations, etc.  And those that don’t have such demonstrations of success must not be as talented or skilled as opposed the possibility that these individuals have actually chosen to redefine what it means to be successful, and potentially these people might actually rate higher in life satisfaction scores.

Now the fact that I sometimes get frustrated with our circumstances as we are forced to make compromises that other families don’t have to make and get very little support from the community, only highlights further the paradigm shift that really needs to take place in our society.  We talk about companies needing to become more socially responsible what about in our own communities? For instance, recently our family attended a BBQ with 4 other families and out of the 8 children there, only 1 child attempted a little interaction with Reilly. This child was 3 whereas all the other children were 6 or older. Although the adults said hello to Reilly upon us arriving, not one asked to help feed, entertain, walk or do anything to engage Reilly.  I know it is challenging and I am not innocent myself but together we all need to do better when it comes to supporting and accepting differences.

Can you imagine how our communities would be different if we raised our children to place greater value on developing rich relationships  instead of monetary success and material belongings?  Sure money is important and I am not suggesting we take it away but it should be one piece of the pie and not the entire pie.  Here are some of the things I think might be different:

  • Schools would have active partnerships with Senior Citizen retirement homes
  • Children with special needs would be more highly integrated with regular classrooms
  • My daughter with RS would have greater access to the same basic benefits as other children without the parents having to pay extra dollars
  • Other children would do more than just stare and whisper about Reilly being different. Instead their curiousity would blossom into rich and wonderful interactions and relationships
  • There would be funding for all necessary equipment for individuals like my daughter to function with dignity
  • People wouldn’t look at families like ours with pity or gratitude that they don’t have such a ‘burden’ but rather just another example of what a family might look like
  • More accessible housing would be built to allow seniors and those with special needs to stay in their own homes (longer)
  • Children would have more options with career choices that match their strengths without getting caught up in today’s definition of what a cool job is about (money!)
  • Employers would offer more flexible working arrangements for parent’s

Given that my own self-worth is very tightly interwoven into how society views Reilly’s worth or value it is discouraging but yet I am determined to do everything within my power to help influence our network of interactions, not just with our family but also my role to others.  Thoughts lead to actions, here is mine….

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