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Life Arts

Real Change: Not Just in the Hands of Politicians

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After a lifetime of public service, I am convinced that real change is not just in the hands of the politicians.   Real change is within the reach of each and every one of us depending on how we do our daily tasks.

An Ethic of Love

On Friday, August 24, New York Daily News reporter Corky Siemasko wrote a story about a wedding ring that had been lost in Battery Park.   Artist Danielle Carroll had been teaching painting classes in the park and inadvertently misplaced her wedding ring while cleaning up the day's activities.   She did not realize her ring was missing until she woke up with a start at 3:30 a.m.

She tried to sneak out of her apartment to look for the ring but her husband awoke and they immediately journeyed back to the park together.   They found the likely trash can where she thought she might have dumped her trash but it had been emptied.   The only possible aid to the search was a loaded but unoccupied garbage truck sitting nearby.   Being unable to conclude the search effort they wrote a note and left it on the windshield, asking for help in searching for the ring telling the reader that she believed her ring was in the truck.

The note was found by park worker Gary Gaddist.    After he found the note he called her and received the whole story.   He agreed to help but told her it was "iffy" like "looking for a needle in a haystack."   He had collected thousands of pounds of garbage, sitting in black bags at the Parks Department's facility on Randalls Island.   He started looking through the bags and around 8:30 a.m. he found the ring.   They had left the note for him at 5:00a.m.

When he was asked why he had done this task for a total stranger he said, "it was a love thing."  

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"She sounded like a nice person, and I could tell she and her husband love each other,"   he said.   "I'm glad I could help."

This is a great story.   But I suspect that Mr. Gaddist is somewhat of an unreliable reporter.   I say this because he attributes the motivation for his action to the couple's love for each other.   But I suspect that the real love at issue is the love of Mr. Gaddist.   He does his job with love.

True Service

I have been known to say that: " True Service   is dedicated work done in the world which includes a consideration of its effect on others.   It is not charity.   Rather, these efforts rest on a redefinition of work itself - in the redefinition of what a job means.   It recognizes that every type of work or job by definition is only properly done when it includes consideration for the needs of those affected by the result.

In practical terms, this means that any action can be done in one-way or the other. Any job, any work, any task, can be done by using the power of that job solely for one's own benefit or by looking out for the benefit that job's real purpose has for others: whether it is President of the United States or garbage collector.      True service is achieved when any job unites power and purpose in benefit to the public."

Here the story of the actual garbage collector reveals that "dedicated work" means work done with a feeling of love for one's fellow human beings.   But it also reveals one other thing.   It is more than just a feeling of love.   It is "an ethic of love."   It is not merely just love as feeling but it is also love in action.

Love in action.   This is what happened here.   Love in action is True Service.   If each and every one of us went about our daily tasks like Mr. Gaddist our nation would change. It would become a better place.   Mr. Gaddist shows us that this is not pie in the sky.   With his actions he shows us what is possible.   And if such an ethic of love were spread far and wide,   the resulting change would be in our own hands.   Not in the hands of politicians.
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Eric Z. Lucas is an alumnus of Stanford University (Creative Writing Major: 1972-1975), the University of Washington (1981: BA English Literature and Elementary Education) and Harvard Law School, J.D. 1986. Since law school he has been a public (more...)

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