Rise to the top?

When did it become okay to step all over everyone to get what you want? We live in America- the land of the successful. The land where anything is possible. The land where money seems to buy happiness.The land where the American Dream began when people needed to escape religious persecution. Then the American Dream was to own an ice box and have a toilet inside your house. Some people’s American Dream was to simply be free. Here’s what I’ve noticed: Physical things don’t matter. Even though it seems that brand names and million dollar homes are the new American Dream.

When you look at the news and see a promising football star being arrested for murder, a famous young lady acting like an idiot because she’s under the influence of, well, everything, a music icon dying from drugs, an athlete get in trouble for being ‘juiced’, you realize that money is not everything. If it was, these people would be making perfect decisions 100% of the time because, let’s face it, they’re rich.

It seems that a rise to the top by our societal terms no longer means hard work. When my grandfather was alive, he showed me what this meant. My grandfather didn’t make it past the third grade- he could only sign his name. He raised a family in a time when using the Sears Roebuck catalog for toilet paper was the norm. He owned a small house where the four children shared one bedroom and owned a nice piece of land. He lost a child at age 12, raised ducks and chickens, and he worked his ass off. He was proud of his old ski doo and rusty tractor. He didn’t always want more, didn’t need bigger and better. He would walk across the street to get soda for a penny cheaper, but he worked until the day his illness took him over and he couldn’t walk anymore. My grandfather was an example of The American Dream. He worked his way up from the lowest guy on the totem pole to being the foreman for a huge construction company. He started from nothing and when he had to retire, he was making a good living. He taught his kids the value of hard work, which my mother instilled in me and there is nothing greater than that, with a little bit of honesty mixed in. I’m so fortunate to have this imprinted on my persona as I see other children growing up with role models who are teaching them to lie, cheat, and steal.

Now I look around me and realize that our great country doesn’t always value hard work anymore. We have become a nation that strives to do the most with the smallest amount of effort. If we have to lie to get to the top, and it seems that the only thing that matters is being at the top- no matter how many people we stomped on to get there. We want to eat fast food and ruin our bodies by being sedentary. We chose quick, bad decisions and don’t think of the long term effects. We strive for what we want and not what we need. We take diet pills to lose weight, starve ourselves for quick fixes because we don’t want to work hard. Being healthy means hard work, not 3 day diets and eliminating carbs.

Being a good person inside and out also takes a lot of hard work. I may not be successful by society’s terms, as I’m a lowly Special Ed teacher, however I work hard for what I own and sometimes, I make bad decisions. I am not perfect in any way but I love my family with all that I have and would sacrifice my life for any one of them. I will work hard at my marriage, work hard at my (two) jobs, keep a semi-clean house, and teach my daughters (and future children) that they need to work hard in life. I will teach them that if they want something, they need to work at it. I will teach them that money isn’t everything and luxury only comes with excess, not before necessity. I will teach them the value of education and to be an active, honest person. I can only hope they will see how much more noble it is that way than getting things for free with very little effort attached to it.

Here’s what I’ve learned in my short 28 years of life: Unless what I have was earned from my blood, sweat, and tears, it’s not worth it! I recently witnessed someone lose because they thought they were getting ahead by stealing. For a while, they had a lot of stuff but they got caught. I will do my best to not judge this person as I’ve never walked a mile in their shoes, but it does make me realize that too many times in life, we are tempted (and sometimes do) break our moral code for instant gratification. A little lie here, a little manipulation there. What people don’t think about is the broken hearts, loss of faith, and tainted trust that is left in the devastation of such an act.

It’s nice to have stuff, it’s nice to go on vacations, it’s nice to have new vehicles, all of this stuff is nice, but is it honestly worth risking your name? In the end of it all, when we go to our graves, all we have left behind is our legacy. Do you want people to remember you as the person who would lie to get stuff? Or would you rather be remembered as someone who worked hard and set an example for their children and even grandchildren? Make these choices carefully- they become who you are.

Be honest today!