An Open Letter to American Society

I am home today battling a hand-me-down cold from my daughter. It’s not a bad one so far, but I am doing everything in my power to keep the damage to a minimum. With flu season ravaging everyone out there, I will take my little cold.

I have a part-time job in retail, a job that pays the bills and allows me the flexibility to live my life with the quasi-freedom a writer’s life should have. It is not ideal, but few things are in today’s world. It’s an overpopulated, under-resourceful place, this world, or maybe we waste too much of what we have.

I have traveled enough to understand what “first world problems” really are. I have talked to enough people from cultures more or less the opposite of mine to see how selfish many people have become.

So, today, I write a brief letter to my fellow Americans. This letter is based on things I see everyday. Too often.

  1. Please stop giving babies iPhones and junk food. If your child isn’t old enough to walk or talk, he or she does not need an icee. And I know it’s not easy to drag an infant everywhere you have to go, but believe it or not, they are fairly easily entertained. Giving your baby an electronic device to watch movies or play games while you shop prevents your child from interacting with the world. That’s how they learn. I saw a mother recently apologize for the fact that her child was mesmerized by a toothpaste box. Good for that kid! Good for that mom! Let your child see things, touch things and meet people.
  2. Get off the phone. A lot of people are busy. We get it. But perhaps that also is a sign that you are misusing your life. And it’s not just people on their lunch hour. It’s the elderly who sometimes can’t hang up the phone to go through the check-out line. It’s just rude and it dehumanizes the person helping you. My daughter recently asked me how you could receive calls at a pay phone. I told her it had a number listed on it so if you really wanted to hang out and receive a call, you could. I also reminded her that this was also the time period where you had to answer the phone to find out who it was and before answering machines and voicemail, if you weren’t home or missed the call you would never know…
  3. Stop buying useless stuff. I think the only reason people buy half the things they own is because of an impulse that starts with “this is cute.” We buy too many clothes, too many knick knacks, so many things. Why?
  4. Live within your means. Be careful with your paycheck and try to save those credit cards for emergencies. Buy the car that fits your budget, not your lust. Not everyone needs the big house. Not every family needs more than one car. Consumers in debt are the playthings of big business.
  5. Eat better. You don’t “need” pizzas and burgers and soda. You don’t need fancy sugar-laden coffee drinks. You want them. You need water (lots of it), fruits and vegetables and healthy protein. I’ll spare the full lecture, but the better you treat your body, the better it will perform for you.
  6. Stop acting spoiled. Or entitled. Or privileged. Whatever word you prefer is fine. You want the random stuff and the fancy coffee drink because you feel you deserve it. And that’s fine. But when they run out of your favorite flavor ice cream, or things don’t work out the way you want, remember everyone usually is doing their best and it’s not the end of the world.
  7. Treat each other kindly. Be gentle. The more we share patience and kindness with our families and those we interact with, the more it will spread. I see too many people get nasty to the sweetest people honestly trying to be the best at their job, and when I see truly good souls fighting tears because someone (who probably has their own demons to fight with) decided to be mean, I don’t question why teens are seeing guns as solutions.
  8. Take care of the elderly. I live in a rare neighborhood. We lost our 90-year-old neighbor last week. Several neighbors helped care for her as she became more and more of a shut-in. The children would all visit. I would always help her carry her groceries or send my daughter to help when I saw the opportunity. That woman died very loved. And my daughter learned how to be a neighbor.
  9. Let your children grow up. Let your children solve their own problems. Have their own experiences. It’s hard to let go. I know. Start small. Let them do meal planning and cook dinner. We saw a team of teenagers working on a school project in a store. They were amazed at the cost of laundry soap and a tad befuddled. Remember, parents are training children to be adults.
  10. Appreciate other cultures. The more you value other cultures, the more you learn about yourself. I think Americans are particularly bad at this.

I’m stopping my list here. I just wanted to give you something to think about.

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