Saturday, March 19, 2011


I needed a lift this week and I got one, but first why I need the lift. Beyond the heart wrenching stories out of Japan, the tension of possible nuclear disaster and ongoing turmoil in the Mideast, three articles in Wednesday's Minneapolis Star Tribune gave me more upset than a serious case of stomach flu. The first was a story on the increase in child poverty in Minnesota; it has grown 14% since 2009. The second article that caught my eye was a report from Bloomberg news that the number of U.S. millionaires grew by 600,000 in 2010. The third was a report on the initial results of the angel investor tax credit program started last summer in Minnesota. Wealthy investors who put money into to start ups got $7 million in tax credits but only 47 jobs were created as a result. Yup $7 million in tax credits for the creation of 47 jobs.  For anyone who is counting, that’s a tax credit of $148,396.17 per job created.  It is also nearly 4 times the median U.S. family income in 2010.

The contrast of these stories highlights which citizens are really "sharing the pain" of the great recession, puts the lie to the GOP line that tax cuts create jobs, and blunts their criticism of Democratic policies for not creating enough jobs. Growing 600,000 millionaires in one year, while the unemployment rate declined by the slightest fraction, and more children fell into extreme poverty is clear evidence that we need to enact public policies that indeed spread the wealth, not policies that let people (read the wealthy) keep more of what they earn in their pockets as the GOP is fond of saying.  Obviously the wealthy are doing just that—keeping it in their pockets or taking it out only when they can reap immoral profit. All this on top of the continuing war on women in the Congress and in our state legislature, the vote to defund PBS and NPR and, and, and…it was enough to make a body weary and this woman’s heart heavy.

The lift came in an unlikely place and from a simple exchange. I did my "big" monthly Costco shop Friday so my cart was quite full and the lines long.  Immediately behind me was an older couple with just a few items and behind them a gentleman with just three items.  I gestured for both the couple and the gentleman to go ahead of me.  The couple said thank you, the gentleman said, "Are you sure?"  I said yes and proceeded to say that with the state of the world I had committed myself to do at least one random act of kindness each day. He said he was shopping for a church pot luck, and that we would all be better off if more people showed kindness. "Yes," I said, "we would and I just think of it as 'paying it forward' and being a small part of making a better tomorrow." 

Now, Costco is collecting contributions to send to Japan, with 100% of every contribution going to the Red Cross relief effort in Japan. The gentleman looked at the flyer, asked the clerk if he could contribute if he was putting his purchase on a card, the clerk said yes, he said he wanted to give $10, turned back to me and said, "Well I paid it forward."  I don't know the gentleman's name, where he worships, or who he votes for, but I do give thanks to the spirits for putting him behind me in the line at Costco, for nudging me to speak about kindness and for the gift of seeing it paid forward right then and there. My belief that kindness does beget kindness was reaffirmed, and I was reminded that amidst all the angst, a simple act can bare unexpected fruit. Now if we can just get the 600,000 new millionaires, the millions of already millionaires, the billionaires and the mean-spirited GOP to buy into some random acts of kindness.

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