The Invisible People

As I was sitting at a Counting Crows concert last night, I saw a young man in his early twenties walking down the aisles, carrying a mop. His head was down, and he dutifully followed another man, clearly his supervisor, who was pointing to spills, vomit, and other suspicious-looking liquids on the floor. As thousands enjoyed music, drinks, and friends, this guy cleaned up our collective mess. All night, he was led from spot to spot like a work horse, invisible to the majority of us.

We like to think that the U.S. is a democracy where anyone can become anything. In some sense this is true. But for the large majority of us, our destiny is shaped while we’re still in utero: by our genes, hormones, and parents’ social status. This is not new news, but many forget that, for the kid whose parents are barely making ends meet, a job cleaning up messes might be the best he can do, or it might be the best he can do quickly.

Some moms and dads can barely help themselves, and they don’t have the influence or resources to help their kids. I help my teens financially in many ways that other parents cannot. My husband has helped family members get high-paying jobs that they were not qualified for. These are examples of advantages that we neither earn nor deserve, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise. And it is one reason that we should pay a living wage or better to those folks who are not born with the same advantages and opportunities, to the folks who work into the night cleaning up messes or who wash our cars in the heat of the day or who help build bridges in cold weather. It is the reason why mentoring programs are so important and why nepotism not only hurts the health of a business but also unfairly takes opportunities from others.

While hard work does indeed factor into success, whether you become a janitor or a white-collar employee has a lot to do with serendipity.



9 responses to “The Invisible People

  1. Fortune favors the prepared mind. ( Louis Pasteur )

  2. Well said, thank you.



  3. Love it Debbie! Very well said. Also wanted to let you know that I’ve been reading your posts as often as you publish them! Keep going.

    ~ Jese Stetson

  4. Amen, Debbie. Great post. I love and admire your compassion.

  5. This is asinine. You do know that 86% of millionaires made their money, right? It wasn’t inherited, they made their own destiny! It only takes two generations to better the future of your family tree. My grandfather and grandmother had a HS education and went into the military. Their son (my father) studied hard and earned a college education. The end result of two generations working hard and saving more then they spend? Success. This selflessness (not serendipity!) led to my brother (followed by myself) to be the first two people on my mom’s side of the family to ever graduate from college. We are now instilling these virtues to our children, continually strengthening our family. Shame on you for telling people they are victims. Why do you want to hold them down?

    • Oh you are so right, Stephen! I should have thought as you do: “Stephen” did this all by himself so everyone should! He’s an island and everyone else is an idiot if they can’t figure it out. Congratulations to you and your brother for being the first to graduate from college. I’m sure your folks were so proud of you. However, that janitor may be working harder than you. Maybe he couldn’t go to college because he had to help his mother support younger siblings. Do you know? I do not.

      There are 10 million millionaires in the US, and 320 million people, so that puts “millionaires,” which these days really isn’t all that wealthy, at just over 3 percent.

      I didn’t use the word “victim.” That’s your word. I said that good fortune consist of more than hard work. Perhaps you can step outside of your little world and see that there are other people who have different circumstances. We have laws such as minimum wage for a reason: because people are NOT in control of their destiny, though they can certainly help shape it, “Steven”.

      Isn’t it your attitude that’s really holding people down? You assume that if everyone isn’t doing as well as you after all *your* hard work, well then, they get what they deserve.

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