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People deserve recognition for looking beyond themselves, restoring trust

Trust is an underlying factor in any long term, smoothly operating system, and we learn to trust—or not to trust—from the people around us and the stories of our culture.  As President Barack Obama pointed out in his recent speech before Congress, we are running “a deficit of trust.”

There are few character traits that will undermine trust faster than greed.  Unfortunately, we have been running a surplus of that commodity.  Looking at the Ten Commandments, or the corresponding instructions for having a civil society outlined by most religions, we can see that breaking most of them involves greed.

We are both horrified and fascinated by many of the financial stories currently grabbing the headlines.  They are the stuff of melodrama and satire, featuring greedy people with overblown self-esteem and miniscule consciences:
Bernie Madoff required references before he agreed to steal from people.
AIG received bailout money because it was “too big to fail,” and then executives invited a few hundred of their closest friends to a party in posh surroundings.
Allen Stanford arranged to be knighted by the governor of Antigua while setting up his fictional investment firm and now expects people to address him as Sir Allen.

The stories are fascinating, even if they are about essentially silly people who need constant adult supervision, but they can teach us, as Aesop did.

In the meantime, trust in our financial institutions has taken a beating.

Other stories about people who are committed to the common good and are contributing to finding  positive solutions to our worldwide predicament are not so titillating, but can burrow into our being and help us fill in our own outline for action.

In “Why Stories Matter” in the current Sojourners magazine, Marshall Ganz  tells what he learned from the yearly repetition in the Passover Seder, telling children, “You were a slave in Egypt.”  He finally realized the point was to recognize that the struggle from slavery to freedom always goes on, and we have to choose where we stand on that.   That realization was a factor in his decision to go to Mississippi in the 1960s to take part in the civil rights movement.

President Obama is continuing a tradition of honoring people who make a difference by telling their stories as they sit with dignitaries in the visitors’ gallery of the House of Representatives.  He told two stories.

 A schoolgirl, Ty’Sheoma Bethea,  wrote Congress of the sorry state of her school and the need for repairs that would allow pupils to succeed in their studies.

When Leonard Abess, Jr., sold a successful bank, he distributed $60 million to 471 current and retired employees.  He said he didn’t need the money and appreciated their loyalty.
He knew the meaning of “Enough.”

One reward of working on the Fig Tree is learning stories of people who make a difference in this part of the world.

When Valley Meals on Wheels needed a kitchen to prepare meals after their vendor left, realtor Grant Person learned the vendor’s kitchen was on the market.  He bought it and rents it to the program at a low rate.  He also donated vans.  Suppliers are donating equipment to update the kitchen. 

Everyone helping Meals on Wheels continue deserves a seat in the gallery for looking beyond themselves, making a difference in the lives of people and restoring trust.

Nancy Minard - Editorial Team