Walking the Walk (Redux)

EDITOR'S NOTE:  December 7 is around the corner, and the Holiday Benefit Concert for the Sacramento Food Bank is almost here.  Last year, this is what we wrote after the Benefit.

This is the season to remember that many folks are less fortunate than we are.  Actually, we should remember them year around.  They are no less hungry after the New Year.  They are no less needy after the New Year.  They are no less unemployed after the New Year.  Except for a few dedicated diehards, we all seem to forget the less fortunate once the Holiday decorations come down.

An errand to a mall shortly before Thanksgiving made me think of the homeless, the hungry, and the unemployed.  Yes, they are part of the underclass that has grown over the last decade or so. 

Many of us who were young adults in the 1960s believe that we have a duty -- maybe civic, maybe moral, maybe guilt-driven -- to contribute to the well-being of society.  Some of us believe that the “greed-is-good” and “me-first” years were the beginnings of the decline of our institutions.  We shifted from asking “what is good for society” to asking “what is good for me.”  Ethics were shoved aside.  Politicians seemed to make decisions based upon who could contribute the most to their re-elections.

Selfishness had replaced selflessness.  Corporate “good” -- that is, profitability -- was put ahead of societal good.  Many in corporate management put their short term income and aggrandizement ahead of what was best for institutional survival.  In the name of making money, jobs were exported.  We were told again and again that what was best for corporate America was “best for us.”

We then were victimized by scandals.  By massive corporate frauds.  By corporate corruption.  By Ponzi Schemes.  By bursting bubbles.  By financiers who created products to enrich only themselves.  By bankers who made money bundling and selling loans while abandoning traditional principles.  By an imploding Economy.

The victims, however, were blamed.  Regulation was blamed.  Foreigners were blamed.  The tax system was blamed.  Unions were blamed.  Public employees were blamed.  The working poor were blamed.

Some of us “products of the 60s” thought the young people who were educated during or emerged from the “greed-is-good” and “me-first” years were responsible.  That those young people had no sense of a greater good.  That they did not feel a need to give back to society.

Saturday night, I learned that maybe my thoughts and opinions were off-base.  I had fallen for the age-old -- or old-age -- trap of misjudging young people.  Ross Hammond had organized and promoted an evening of music at Old Soul to benefit the Sacramento Food Bank.  The price of admission was money, food, or clothing.

Becky and I brought our bag full of food and walked into Old Soul along with Ross’ in-laws.  The place was full.  The audience was attentive and appreciative.  The barrels at the door were about to overflow.  After us, people kept arriving.  They were there to give -- to help out the less fortunate -- to contribute to the greater good.

The arrival of the 4 of us brought the number of middle-aged folks in the room to 5.  The audience was mainly under-30s.  They were too young to remember the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Movement, the United Farm Workers, the Women's movement, “The Other America,” the Great Society, or the War on Poverty.  They also were too young to be “me-firsters.”

Electopoetic Coffee “took the stage.”  Lawrence energized the audience with his thoughtful and thought-provoking narratives on the state of the Economy, the plight of the underclass, corporate greed, and the decline of the middle class.  Ross’ accompaniment picked up the pace as Lawrence’s delivery raced. The audience applauded enthusiastically.

As we left, I looked at the barrels which by then were overflowing with food and clothing donations.  Maybe there is hope for this younger generation.  Maybe greed and apathy will be pushed down a few rungs on the ladder of acceptable traits.

And on this Saturday night, somebody was walking the walk.

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