Inspiration And Revenge Do Not Mix
Fairness Is Good; Generosity Is Better
One of the things I dread about election season (which seems never-ending, anymore) is the negativity that seems to pervade it. It's been a long time since a candidate truly inspired people in America... in my opinion, you have to go back to Ronald Reagan's "Morning In America" campaigns to find any true inspiration. And I think it's because today's candidates try to use the wrong tools to inspire.
They motivate us, sure, through negative emotions such as fear and envy. They think they're inspiring us by appealing to our sense of "fairness" or "equality," but the message lands as a call for revenge... and that's not going to truly inspire anyone. Do you really hate and envy others because they've been successful in the free market? Do you really think "redistributing" wealth earned by others will make you feel better, let alone inspire you? When someone else is really inspired with an entrepreneurial drive toward adventure and is willing to work hard to achieve something, is it really inspiring to think about exacting revenge upon them in the name of those who didn't take the same risks or put in the same effort? Again I'll assert: you might be motivated by such negativity - you might even be driven to vote for those who successfully play to your darker side - but that's not really inspiration.
Inspirational leaders are all about what you can accomplish, if allowed the opportunity to pursue your dreams. They're not about wallowing in pity and doubt. They're not about hating the guy who chased his own dream until he caught it. They're not about revenge. And when they waste millions of campaign dollars trying to use revenge as a basis for inspiration, they further the vandalism that's been perpetrated on our free and happy country for too many decades.
Yesterday, my wife and I hosted our 13th annual "block party" for the Fourth of July. More than just our block, the guests were invited from the entire surrounding neighborhood. It was another triumphant, politics-free celebration of our nation, and a great opportunity to meet new neighbors. We all reinforced great bonds of neighborliness and friendship, and started building new relationships. I read the Declaration of Independence and sang some original music, with the great help of my rock-star son. And I'm still getting thank-you calls from guests. Our block party started humbly, but is now an institution in our neighborhood... and a good one.
Like many neighborhoods, ours is somewhat divided these days. Judging from the campaign signs you see in people's yards, it's about evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, and between conservatives and liberals. So it's great to come together and celebrate a day that isn't about how you vote, but about how great the country is, regardless. And each year, I'm reminded of why I decide to put in the considerable effort and expense of hosting this party. It's because I would like to help inspire my friends and neighbors, and leading through generosity matches well with my personality and talents.
Every year, at least one person tries what I feel are my noble intentions... and it usually happens on the day I walk the neighborhood, putting a little invitation flyer on each neighbor's door. The older I get, the more of an arduous chore this is (this year, I was sore for three days afterward). But it's always a labor of love, and it's my way of saying to my neighbors that, no matter how long the winter's been or how roughly the year has passed, it's summer again, and we'll have yet another chance to get together.
This year, I walked up to one door, flyer in hand, and heard three dogs barking at me through the glass storm-door. This is not uncommon, of course - I have a flyer to put on the door, and dogs have a job to warn me away from their turf. But in this case, a lady (presumably the resident) walked up behind the dogs and hollered at me through the glass. "Don't bother. Whatever it is, we don't want it." This is also not uncommon, because solicitors also put flyers on peoples' doors. But I held up the flyer, showed her it was just an invitation to the block party, and this often causes a change-of-attitude on the part of my neighbors. In this case, it didn't. The lady hollered at me again, and then threw up her hands and turned her back on me.
I put the flyer on her door anyway.
For the next several houses, as I went on my rounds, I thought about that exchange. Here I am, inviting this lady to come over to my house, trample my grass, eat food and drink beverages provided by my wife and me, listen to music by professionals engaged at my expense, come and go as she pleases, and all for free. I'm inviting her to an experience for which our neighbors are still thanking me, 24 hours later! I'm not asking her for a dime, but she's treating me like a common flim-flam artist trying to bilk her out of her fortune.
For a few minutes, I thought about going back and removing the invitation. Un-inviting this unfriendly person. I mean, do I really want her over there on the Fourth of July, grumping around, ruining the happy day for everyone?
And then I thought, yes, I do want to invite her. I've never un-invited any neighbor in the 13 years of the institution that is this block party, and I'm not going to start now. Why? Because if anyone needs the holiday cheer, this lady does! And, more importantly, I am not doing this because of who she is, or might become. I'm doing this because of who I am, and who I might become.
I could have exacted revenge on her, and I'd be completely justified. I could have removed the invitation, and most of my neighbors would've applauded the decision. But I left the invitation in place, eschewing revenge for a simple act of (dare I say it?) inspiration.
I don't know whether or not she attended yesterday. If she did, she certainly didn't grump around (no one did). She probably would've been one of the dozen-or-so people who introduced themselves as new neighbors and thanked me for my hospitality. Parties like ours do tend to bring out the best in neighbors, after all. But it really doesn't matter. I feel nothing but gratitude toward that lady, for giving me another chance to confirm who I am and why I do what I do.
I was motivated to un-invite her - to take richly-deserved revenge! But I was inspired to let the invitation stand. And if you haven't already learned it from your own experiences, trust me to tell you from mine: inspiration leaves you with a much better feeling than revenge could ever give you.