Like so many of you, things seem to be going well in my business. While that’s exciting and satisfying, I ask myself every day whether I’m doing enough of the right things in the community to reciprocate for this opportunity and privilege. Maybe you are, or should be, asking yourself the same question.

3 seemingly unrelated recent experiences helped bring clarity to something really important:

First – My friend Jose Toves, with whom I’ve spent countless hours together as volunteers in the community theater along with our kids, recently left his long-time corporate role to seek a more fulfilling and personally-aligned way to spend his professional time. As a reflection of his transition learning, and knowing me and the things I always seem to be talking about like ethics and authenticity, Jose offered me a generous and powerful gift – John C. Maxwell’s book “There’s No Such Thing as ‘Business’ Ethics”. In the book, in discussing the importance and value of living by the Golden Rule, Maxwell describes the importance of priorities. He asks the question: “In 50 or 100 years what are you doing now that will still be important?” Sort of a chilling thought.

Second – I read a compelling book by Barbara Ehrenreich called “Nickle and Dimed – On (Not) Getting By in America”, describing the ridiculous challenges faced by low-wage workers in our society. It helped me realize how easy it is to let poverty be invisible while I go along living my privileged life. I did a little research and learned that:

37 Million Americans are below the “poverty line” — This is 7 Million more than just 4 years ago – a disturbing trend

40% of annual family incomes are below $35,000 (40%!!!!)

Now, think about how much tougher things are in Orange County and other high cost environments, where low wage jobs are still low wage jobs, but:

  • The “Housing Wage” is $21.12/hour (annually $42,000+) for a one-bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent.
  • For perspective – 2 full-time workers in a household, even at a generous $10/hour (beyond many low-wage workers’ reach), cannot meet the Housing Wage. Now, how about a single parent?

Third – I heard the song “Gotta Serve Somebody” by Bob Dylan…Very poignant:

You may be an ambassador to England or France, you may like to gamble, you might like to dance, you may be the heavyweight champion of the world, you may be a socialite with a long string of pearls, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

So here’s the challenge: We are the privileged ones in this society. Are we doing everything we can to make a difference? Each of us needs to ask what we are doing to build up the foundation of our society, generating the strength we need to keep growing, building from within.

Here are some great examples of friends in the market who are helping those who really need help, and thereby building the foundation for a better future for us all:

Rod McDermott – Board Member of THINK Together – Academically-oriented out-of-school programs for young people.
Patricia Sproule – Board Member of The Prentice School – Empowering dyslexic students to build their foundation for success.
Hal Reisiger – Career Coaching and Counseling Ministry at Saddleback Church – Supporting transitioning professionals in the Saddleback Church family toward their next career opportunity.

My own example of trying to support the youth and families of Orange County is serving as a Board Member of the YMCA of Orange County.