I was asked by the United Way last week to visit the offices of RBC and do a speech for their campaign and one of the things they asked me to address was the impact of the economy on the social services industry and how we’re seeing a lot more people using our homeless program for meals and overnight accomodations, as well as our Employment and Training programs. It was an issue that I was more than happy to address, mostly due to the fact that I’ve become increasingly tired of listening to people bitch and moan about their jobs when I’m of the belief that people should be grateful to have a job. I have very little sympathy for the person that’s not getting a bonus this year or their 2% pay increase when they get fairly well paid in the first place. Neither can I really find it in me to really sympathize when someone is fighting to get time off to go on a vacation when this is their third or fourth vacation of the year. I’m tired of hearing about how people don’t have the money to shop, or to afford the extravagant luxuries in life that they feel they deserve when they’re living in a house that is well beyond their means and are carrying a mortgage that is more than they can afford.
It’s this sense of entitlement that has taken over so many people that pisses me off.
Last week I listened to the VP of RBC tell his staff that they need to be grateful to work for one of the best companies in the world – and that wasn’t just his opinion but it’s been rated as such. To be grateful to have job security and regular hours and a nice office and a healthy paycheck every other week. I listened to him and I nodded my head and when it was my turn to speak, I reinforced what he had to say – told a roomful of people that I dealt with homeless people that used to have jobs like theirs – that were investment bankers and accountants and account managers. They used to have jobs on Bay and on Front, used to dress for work every morning in their own suits, commute on the Go trains, sit amongst them eating lunch at Jump or Canoe until their circumstances changed. How they lost everything – their jobs, their families, their cars, their houses.
When I do speeches like this, I like to remind people that they’re just three paycheques away from living on the street – that’s how fast things can change. Sometimes, the message gets through and the person goes back to their desk and fills out their United Way form, increasing their pledge (or filling it out for the first time) and sometimes it does not – and these people go out on their lunch hour, and spend $20 on a salad and drop $200 on another pair of shoes that they don’t really need and then they bitch to their colleague when they get back to their desk that they don’t get paid enough.
I’m getting so tired of all the whining and the complaining from people that have so much and don’t realize how much more they have than the average person. Yes, the economy sucks right now and yes, maybe they’ve had to make cuts this year that have hurt just a little bit but at least they’re in a position where they can pick and choose what they can do without.
I’m tired of opening my blog feeder or my facebook account of checking people’s Twitter accounts to see what their up to and every single time it’s a complaint about how much their life sucks for whatever reason. It’s lost on me how their lives can truly be so bad when they have so much and now, it’s getting to the point where whenever I post anything, I make sure it’s not a bitch about something that, when it comes down to it, is really pretty trivial.
I said to my husband last week that I was done, that I didn’t want to be around people that only ever complain – all the negativity, the bitterness, the resentment, the shallowness. I’m trying to be around only positive people these days, people that appreciate what they have, that enjoy life, that remember how to laugh and to smile, that take great pleasure out of the simple things in life like a hot beverage on a cold day, or the sun shining after three days of rain. How many people will wake up to a sunny morning and when you comment on it say “Yes, but, it rained for the past three days.”?
Where’s the joy in what we have, rather than the resentment for what we don’t have?
A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend and she was referring to the baby that I’m having as a princess and I asked her to please not refer to her that way. It wasn’t the first time that I had to tell someone not to refer to the baby as a little princess and each and every time, they were puzzled for my resistance to the word princess. And then I had to explain to them that her father and I have made a very conscious decision of how are child will be raised and what she will be able to expect from others, and that we will be trying very hard to raise this child to not have the sense of entitlement that the rest of the world seems to have adopted. I don’t want my child to ever greet a visitor to our house by inquiring what they brought for her or did the bag they were carrying hold a gift for them. I don’t want to have to deal with a kid in a store that’s throwing a tantrum because they can’t have whatever item they pulled off the shelf, or to hear her tell me that she’ll be good as long as I give her this. I don’t see those kids as being any different than the adult that complain that they don’t make enough, that their house isn’t big enough, that they don’t have enough shoes filling their closet.
I want my child to have the best of things, there’s no question about that. But she should have what she deserves, not what she feels she’s entitled too.
I grew up with hand me downs most of my life, never had my own room, grew up eating meals that my mother convinced us were fun to have (toasted tomato sandwhiches and hotdogs and sauerkraut and sometimes, slices of potatoes fried in the frying pan – something we called round chips – that we dipped in ketchup. I never realized then that some of the meals that my mother cooked for us were not what she probably wanted for us, that she ideally would have served, but were meals compiled of the food that she had in the cupboard and that she made do with the best that she could. Meals that she could afford to buy when she went to the grocery store each week.
If I learned anything from my parents when I was growing up was that they lived well within their means, they did not give us things that they could not afford. We didn’t have an allowance growing up because they did not want us to get accustomed to something that they might not always be able to provide. When we wrote our letters to Santa each year, we knew that Santa had a budget of $100 for each of us, and we tailored our lists with that in mind. Perhaps we put one extravagant item on our list, knowing that would be all we would get, but more often than not, we carefully selected a number of items that always cost less. When we passed a grade in school, my mother threw a small party for us and filled the dining room table with all our favorite foods. There were no expensive gifts on the last day of school and it didn’t matter to us – because we were so looking forward to the banquet of food that’d be waiting for us. I remember on report card days my parents would pile us in the car and we’d go to Dairy Queen and I would be allowed to order anything off the menu and I would go for what I thought was the most extravagant item on the menu – a banana split. I remember the taste to the banana, mixed with the ice cream and the hot fudge and the peanuts sprinkled on top – that, to me, was luxury.
We received what my parents could afford to give, and while I grew up sometimes bitching about the second hand clothes, I always looked forward to the box of clothes that my mother would receive from her sister who’s own children had outgrown the designer labels that she dressed them in and yes, I got a great deal of pleasure when something had the right label and fit me the right way. Yes, I enjoyed being able to wear that outfit to school the next day but the day after that, I put on my Kmart or Biway special and still went to school and even though I thought it might, the world didn’t end because of it.
We made the most of what we had and I like to think that I still live the way. I have a closest filled with some really nice things, clothes and shoes bought brand new from expensive stores but those items sit next to items that I bought at the Superstore or at Walmart, or even better, at a second hand store. I don’t hesitate to tell people when something I am wearing cost me $9.99 – in fact, I’m more willing to reveal the price on that piece of clothing than I am on something that cost me a $100. I buy what I can afford, and what I think is a good value and what I can make work with my wardrobe and I have a feeling that our daughter’s wardrobe will be much the same, as will the rest of her things. She will have what we can afford, and if she has things that are expensive, she will have them because we think they are worth the money and not because we feel that she’s entitled to them.
Our child will have what she needs, and what we feel she should have. She will want for things which she may or may not get but she will not be spoiled, will not feel entitled, will not be a princess. Some nights, she will have slices of potatoes fried on the stove and with lots of salt and ketchup – and hopefully it won’t be because that’s all we can afford to feed her but because it’s something FUN to have. And if I do my job right, she won’t recognize the difference until she is much, much older.
And hopefully, when she is that much older and that much wiser, she’ll be one of these seemingly few that are grateful for what she has and not resentful for what she doesn’t have.
She’ll be someone that I want to be around, and not be angry, bitter or resentful.