Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Impromptu Mentoring Session With My Young Male Neighbor

Yesterday I was doing yard work after dinner.
The previous Friday I had taken advantage of Home Depot's "Black Friday Sale". They were selling "By One Get One Free" bags of mulch. I hit two different Home Depots and got a total of 40 bags. Yesterday was the day I chose to get some exercise carrying the bags out to my yard and spreading them.

As I was working my young neighbor came over to talk to me. He is 13 years old. I hadn't talked to him since last fall. I noticed that his voice had gotten deeper since that time.

He normally asks if he can do anything for me, in exchange for a few dollars. Today he joined right in and helped me to carry the bags of mulch from the end of my driveway to my backyard. He said he was now lifting weights and thus could use this task as his exercise for the day.

David is a pretty smart kid. I like to hear him thinking about the next steps in his life. He was already thinking about the classes that he is going to take next year as a freshman in high school. He planned to be a lawyer or a business man. In preparation he said he'd join the debate team and take a "Biz Finance" class. Someone told him that he should get a job as a cashier now so that he could watch what a manager does in a business. I told him that the manager's job in "closing" the business each night, making sure that the cash on hand matches what the register says should be on hand.

I suggested that between the two he might want to consider business instead of the law. By definition being a lawyer is a conflict-rich position. You are either defending against someone's grievance or pursuing a grievance against someone. Many people who go to law school never actually practice law. They still have their student loans to pay off. Those people who are well connected in marquee law schools are most often the ones that are plugged into elite law firms, pulling down the big bucks.

In business - the skills that you learn in school establish the basis for the framework of understanding that you apply as you gain life experience. If you have business acumen and computer skills you'll do fine.

I told him that above all else - communications skills are important in business. It is good that he would consider the debate team. The skill of making a succinct statement that gets your point across in an articulate manager is an essential skill in business. I have to convince my customers that they should purchase what I am selling. I am always talking to my business associates inside of the company. They formulate their opinion of me based on the phone calls, e-mails and presentations that I give internally or to the customers I speak to.

Out of the blue he asked me: "So what do you think about this health care bill? I kinda support it but I realize that in the long run I am going to be paying for it."

I told him that there are many issues going on at once:
  • I agree that we as a society should make sure that people have reasonable access to medical care.  We don't need people dying on the streets
  • At the same time there are some basic principles of economics which are violated with such a scheme.  Ignoring this will lead to some unsavory consequences
I told him that society should work to develop people at the periphery so they are more competent to deliver the living standard that they seek, as close to home as possible.   To try and get the central government on the hook for taking care of all people virtually insures that it will collapse under the weight of doing so.

We went back and forth to clarify some points but in the end we both agreed that in the attempt to reduce the gaps between rich and poor with regards to health care there will be some agent in the middle that ultimately takes from the rich and distributes it to the poor.  Beyond some point this middle man becomes oppressive in their efforts to produce a particular outcome.

The most rational strategy is to help those who need help BUT to put this on a development path.  The people themselves need to have a vision for their own development, where they grow stronger and become the service providers that their communities need.

In our conversation I did not indoctrinate him.  I ask more questions of him that allow him to clarify his own views rather than attempting to imprint my views on him.

As we ended our conversation I stopped him as he walked away.  I told him that as a Black person - you are going to be pressured to think in a certain way.   You should be clear on what you think and have a framework as to why you think as you do. 

When those who seek to pressure you because of your race see that they can get you to "get in where you fit in", yielding to them because you want to be accepted as "Black" they are going to continue to lead you around by the nose.  THEY are the ones who rarely have to justify their own thoughts and how they impact the Black community.   I told him to keep doing what he is doing and remain clear on what he believes. 

Talking to kids like that and the young males that I work with in a program that I am affiliated with effectively balance out the frustration that I have in seeing the chaos that so many other people cause.


Side Note - the day before my wife asked me "So do you think that Health Care is a RIGHT or a PRIVILEGE?"

I told her that the question was irrelevant.  If you didn't have the MONEY to execute upon the mandate you can label "Health Care as a comedy show" and the money and skill will be the key forces that determine if the people get care or not"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you. This exchange with your neighbor and your wife clarified many issues I was thinking about. I am learning alot from you.