Oh, The People You Know
About a decade ago, I met a man who went on a harangue about the moochers of society, and questioned why others felt they were entitled to receive assistance for things they could do themselves if they only set their minds to it. He was a “pick-yourself-up-from-your-bootstraps” kind of guy who had gone to college, worked several jobs to pay for it, earned a degree and was now making a good living.
Whether this type of mentality and the politics associated with it have any merit is open to debate, but what I’ve kept coming back to after all these years is the degree to which we benefit from the lives we intersect with, and how a seemingly minor vicissitude can impact us in big ways. Dr. Suess wrote Oh, The Places You’ll Go, but Oh, the People You’ll Know would probably have been a bigger indicator of our futures. Anyone in Nashville and Hollywood certainly knows this, but you needn’t pursue dreams of stardom to recognize how who you know is a gift that keeps on giving.
Just last week I went on a free trip to the Caribbean thanks to my wife’s employer – the wife I would never have met had I not had the money and education to get into grad school. And grad school was largely the result of my parents’ ability to raise me in an upper middleclass neighborhood in Brookfield, Wisconsin with high quality schools and safe streets. The people I met during this time have, over the years, assisted me in ways large and small. They’ve gotten me tickets to Packers and Brewers games, provided legal and financial advice, walked me through home improvement projects, offered lodging in interesting places, given me tips on purchases, doctors, technology – you name it. Sure, I had a job at sixteen and worked relatively hard during high school, but my grandmother’s inheritance paved the way to a loan-free undergraduate degree, which resulted in a modest loan from grad school, which allowed my wife and me to pay off our car loan sooner, which gave us an opportunity to save more for my children’s college funds…
It’s all connected. There’s no getting around the fact that I’m still benefitting from the relationships I established well over twenty years ago.
I think of the free air conditioning maintenance my generous neighbor has given me, the major discount my wife and I received from an old friend when we set up a will, the crazy talented musicians who’ve helped me record numerous CDs, the friend who created my website, and the computer geniuses who’ve resuscitated my desktop from certain death a number of times.
This list goes on and on. And while I’ve dug myself out of a few holes in my lifetime, to think that I’ve lived in some sort of cocoon and didn’t benefit – and benefit dramatically – from the people I’ve met would be absurd.
But here’s the kicker: how much different would these benefits had been had I grown up ten miles east of my childhood home?