It's been about a month since my last blog post. That's very unlike me. But...connectivity problems and computer glitches have created a situation that made it difficult to write on this site. Hopefully, that's over for now. However, I wonder how much of those troubles were related to Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath?
Which brings me to the topic of this post. Over the past six weeks I've had some automotive problems as well. While my car was in the shop, I rented cars. When I checked my bills I noticed that there was a stark pricing difference during one particular week. My charges were about 60% higher than during any other week. Upon inquiring I was told that it was because of Hurricane Sandy. I was startled...to say the least. Then I questioned the saleperson, "Shouldn't prices be lower when people are in need? Isn't it the compassionate thing to do in order to help people out during tough times?"
Of course, in our system of free enterprise, these price hikes are not unusal. When I posted my situation on a facebook page, someone else mentioned that the roofers were (rightly, in his opinion) charging higher prices to those folks who were affected by the storm as well. I find the whole thing distasteful.
We live in a paradox. Our value system instructs us to help the needy, while our economic system leads us to take advantage of them. I did some further investigation and found that the Governor of New Jersey had to render an edict against price gouging. That's says a lot about our morals - when the government has to stop businesspeople from taking customers "for a ride."
What has happened to treating people fairly and with compassion? If you study our financial system you'll also see that credit card companies charge people who have bad or questionable credit higher rates than those who have good or excellent credit. It creates a "catch 22." How can a person improve his or her credit when he or she is being "legally price gouged" with exorbitant interest rates and fees? When I was a kid they used to call those types of interest rates "loan sharking."
Can our economic system ever be fair? I doubt it, but...it's possible. What we all need to do, as consumers,
businesspeople, and leaders, is to teach fairness, compassion, and kindness. Of course, businesses must make a profit. But they can do so without taking advantage of their customers and employees. For that to happen, I believe that we need to adjust our societal moral compass. It only takes the realization that when a business treats people right, they create good will, positive "word of month" advertising, a lot more customers, and...loyalty. It works every time!
I am a university professor, amongst other things. And, as such, am witness to (or involved in) a ritual that happens twice a year, at minimum. It is a right of passage. The part of life we've come to know as graduation. Students, faculty and staff dress up in their academic regalia and make their ceremonial walk to either take their seats or receive their diplomas.
While the caps and gowns harken back to medieval times, the event is all about today. For years, students have labored with their studies, taken classes they've enjoyed, despised or felt neutral about, been subjected to tests they've tolerated or at worst - hated, written papers, been impacted by things they'll remember for a lifetime or forget the next day, made lasting friendships, partied, gotten involved in romantic relationships that will create their new family or end up on the scrap heap as a story to remember - or forget - that involved months, weeks, or years of their lives. They have fallen asleep in class, paid attention to their lecturers or zoned out for countless minutes. They've laughed, cried, longed for home, or commuted. Some have gotten involved in university and/or social organizations and some have not. But...all of them become the same on that very special day. They are college graduates.
Days, weeks, and years later, memories will float back about this fact or class, that person or event - each one of which will ignite a spark about their college days. Certainly the loans will need to be paid and the alumni magazines, e-mails, and postcards will appear. However, something of substance will have been gained. Through everything else...they've learned an immeasurable lesson about life. Another chapter has been closed. Perhaps some will re-open it on another level. An advanced degree may be in the offing, and they may grab the opportunity. For others...they will take a different path. Yet all of them are connected - forever.
In my role as a professor, these students also become friends. People with hopes and dreams. Some will be fulfilled, others not. Yet...through it all, they've arrived. Now...they will face the remainder of their lives and hopefully triumph. I doubt very much whether students realize the effect they have on their teachers. After all...we are people too. And - for a semester, or two, or three, they are our children. We really care about them and what life holds for their present and future. Now...as we see them accept their diplomas, we are proud - as any parent would be. And yes - we hope they make good decisions, that we taught them well, they learned and grew, and whatever chapter is next in their lives, that it is filled with health, love, success, and good deeds.