I’ve been thinking about the digressing state of our nation and the fingers of blame that are pointed from both sides of the aisle. One side argues that money corrupts. It corrupts those in power, such as the heads of corporations. These twisted fat cats selfishly hoard our nation’s resources, abusing the poor. The other side also argues that money corrupts. They also argue that it corrupts those in power. It corrupts government officials and bureaucracies who are swayed by lobbyists. Its cushy and powerful nature promotes a focus on immediate “needs” and wants, inspiring reckless spending and delaying of inevitable consequences. Maybe both sides are onto something. Maybe money corrupts. Maybe it corrupts everyone, not just the rich and powerful.
Could poor people possibly be corrupted by money? When there’s a financial incentive, could a desperate person be inclined to do something he wouldn’t otherwise do? Could a poor person who’s simply given money possibly be corrupted by reaping what he hasn’t sewn? And if everyone’s just inclined to be corrupted by money, could there not possibly be something also corrupt in a corrupt government official taking money from a corrupt corporate executive, and giving it to a corrupt poor person?
What if it was utterly corrupt for anyone, in any position, to declare any stewardship over anyone’s money but his own? And if the masses followed this principle, where would our nation be?
Tonight we made cookies and brought them to neighbors in response to our stake president asking us to perform acts of kindness for our neighbors, especially for the less active or non-members. It’s a little awkward that bringing cookies was all I could think of, as if such were the only socially-acceptable way to make contact with the foreigners next door. Technology has truly made us friends with people on the other side of the world and strangers with our next-door neighbors. But I guess you have to start somewhere. And it did work. We had a great conversation with our neighbors and learned a lot about them.
Sometimes being a Mormon can be painful. It requires us to do things we wouldn’t otherwise do. Like contacting our neighbors. Like being … (shudder) … sociable. I started out very shy in elementary school, but I soon learned that I wanted to be a funny kid, which required me to transcend my comfort zone. I grew to be okay at making friends and engaging in small talk, but it never came naturally. When I let nature get the best of me throughout my life, I degenerated into a recluse. I can recall social settings, even in college, where I was seen as the quiet one, the anti-social one. Even when I really tried to be sociable, in some settings, I just couldn’t small talk, let alone talk as a friend.
But that’s okay, right? That’s just who I am. Sociality isn’t one of my fortes. I don’t want to be the nagging elder who calls each month for your home teaching report. I don’t want to be that unnaturally friendly guy at church who always says hello and has stupid sunshine in his soul. I don’t want to be like Jesus and disregard all social barriers, making my primary concern in life the welfare of other people. I don’t want to love my neighbor, I just want to love myself.
Wouldn’t it be easier if we could find God by abandoning society and meditating in the woods? Perhaps we can. But Mormonism comes with this horribly inconvenient doctrine that it’s not enough just find God, we have to be like him.
I played the cello at a musical celebration of the Mormon pioneers put on by my stake.
Actually I do remember a talk from a high counsel man, who emphasized the duty of parents to not shirk from their responsibilities in order to avoid negative attitudes from their children. Parenting is not a popularity contest, and sometimes the only way to show love is to chastize. True love cannot support self-destructive behavior. I wonder if I’ve been guilty of stepping back and preaching tolerance when someone close to me needed a firm hand. There’s definitely a tough balance there. Let the Spirit guide.