“Hello, my name is Jennifer. I am addicted to income inequality.”
Group: “Hello Jennifer.”
Group Leader: “We’ve asked Jennifer here tonight to please tell us her story, how she deals with income inequality addiction.”
“Thank you for the invite Charis and Irene!”
“Well, my income inequality addiction began at a very early age. At five years of age I saw kids in my neighborhood receiving an allowance from their parents.
These friends of mine were able to buy gum, baseball cards, dolls, G rated Archie comic books, you name it. They bought it with their 25 cents or with their 50 cents or with their dollar bill right in front of me. I felt deprived, anxious and angry.”
Group Leader: “You must have felt a tremendous urge to make demands of your parents.”
“Yes I did. Income inequality anger began to grow deep inside me. I began to covet my friend’s hoard of pennies. “It’s not fair!” I told my parents.
Well, my parents, good folk that they were, gave me an allowance but only after I had washed the supper dishes, made my bed daily, memorized my Scripture verse for Sunday and completed other value-received chores.
Still, you must know, my allowance of 25 cents wasn’t enough. I couldn’t buy what my friends could buy. They had bags of marbles. I had a handful. “It’s not fair,” I told my parents again.
So, I was given the option of washing the family car for two dollars once a week. Cutting the grass was a regular chore so no money was gained from yard work. I had to really think hard as to how to compete for that societal equality that would ultimately, I thought, make me bubble-gum ice cream happy.”
Group Leader: “What did you do?”
“Well, nothing for a while. I stewed and, sometimes, I stole candy and small items from the “Five and Dime” stores.” I wanted my fair share.
As I grew older I did receive COLA allowances but I also received WORK obligations to match the COLA allowances.
So, you must know, I began working at age 12. The pastor of our little church must have seen the march for equality goose stepping its way though my nervous system as I sat squirming in the pew every Sunday. One day he recommended me for a job at a local photo shop. The store owner, upon the pastor’s recommendation, hired me for PT work. Every week after that day I received a paycheck.
With that piece of the monetized industry I began to spend, to save and to tithe. I stopped saying “It’s not fair!” on a regular basis. “Minimum wages”, unheard of in my youth, were what I got for what I agreed to do. I did not complain. In fact, I beamed.
Still, you must know, that after two years of behind the counter film canister envelope prep and returning unexposed or badly lit pictures to irate customers I was promoted to selling cameras. Nikons, Canons, Hasselblads – the whole gamut of photo gadgetry. I was paid more and beginning to forget about childhood’s income inequality fixation until someone else was hired.
The addition of the another staff member made me wonder if I was paid more or less than the new hired help. I became anxious, secretly hoping to exercise my detective skills to determine income inequality. My addiction was flaring up once again.
Group Leader: “Did you ever find out about the other worker’s pay?’
“No, I didn’t. Circumstances changed: the high school bus started arriving every week day morning. What I hadn’t thought about till then was that the owner of the photo shop had anticipated my leaving for high school and needed to hire a replacement. I kept my anxiety in tact anyway. I wasn’t sure I could trust people to be fair. Nobody else knew how important I was.
Still, you must know, I was at financial odds with my generation. People I knew were going to Woodstock or to San Francisco or to Paris. The unlucky went to Vietnam-no envy was elicited from me on that matter.
And, you must know, that in high school, I wasn’t equal with a good friend who got a car from his parents. It was a car with an eight-track player! “It’s not fair,” I revved up again.
Well, my dad-he worked two jobs-let me use the family car. I became somewhat mollified. I could then at least listen to WLS with Larry Lujack, “Little Tommy” and “Animal Stories” on the punch dial radio. Not only that, the Top Forty Countdown aired between a dozen or so commercials. I sat in the family car or drove the car just for the existential experience of radio “ON” and windows open. Music helped soothe the savage inequality beast.
High school was a challenge for me. I was too busy with band, orchestra, track, tennis, honors math, boyfriends, etc. to worry out loud about income inequality. But, I did want the same clothes, the same shoes, the same pink troll pen tops-you know, the essentials.
Group Leader: “How did you manage without money during high school?”
“It wasn’t easy. My dad worked two jobs and my mom worked a night shift. They were both tapped out. I babysat my younger siblings gratis, biting my nails and watching “Father Knows Best.” I had to wait till summer to abate my income inequality anxiety.
Every summer between my high school years I worked my butt off. Each job was different and demanding. I gained knowledge quicker than I gained income, but again, I would leave my envy intact as a backup. There was always something I felt that was missing, something that I thought I needed to have even when I couldn’t picture it in my mind or on the TV.
Group Leader: “What happened after high school?”
“My father and mother gave me $750.00 and sent me off to Moody Bible Institute, a tuition-free school. That was all the money I ever received for my college education. I worked PT at Garrett’s Popcorn shop and did janitorial work for Moody to cover room and board.
After Moody I began working in the only jobs that I could find-industrial jobs. It had become clear to me that childhood had run its course and that now I must provide for myself. This was scary anxiety driving stuff. Envy was still waiting in the wings hoping that I would rejoin her party.
While I worked different shifts I began studying correspondence courses from Moody-New Testament Koine Greek, New Testament Survey and other courses.
Later, working at various day jobs I made myself learn what I needed to increase my income. So, at night and the weekends I went to a community college.
There, I studied sundry subjects: computer programming, trigonometry, physics, macro and micro economics, accounting, business, and welding! I could stick weld, MIG weld, TIG weld, flame weld, use a blow torch, calculate rates of acceleration, balance your books and code Programmable Logic Controllers. This unique skill set paid more, much more. I found that if I made myself indispensable to my employer I earned more and was kept on staff when there were layoffs. And there were layoffs.
Group Leader: “It sounds like you began making personal decisions that turned your life around.”
“Yes, I forced myself to grow. I am inquisitive by nature so most learning comes naturally. Some learning comes the hard way-through stupid stuff and not paying attention to detail.
At one point after I had worked as electrical panel builder I taught myself how to use CAD software. After that I began doing design work. I then became a designer of electrical automation schematics. I enjoyed the creative aspect of engineering. Income inequality became less of an issue because I felt I was in the game. Then I had a family.
Little materialists popped onto the scene and like the rest of us they were contentment challenged.
Being a Tiger That-Eats-Ones’-Self Parent that I am I put more pressure on myself when I decided to become a partner in a newly formed corporation.
To make a long story short, three of us, two guys and me as Tiger Parent, started a manufacturing business. Each of us brought a different set of skills accrued over time. We felt we could make it happen and we did. The company became a worldwide multimillion dollar company. It also became a 24/7 job in my role a VP of Engineering. So, after fifteen years and thousands of miles of air travel I sold my shares and quit. A little late, but family needed to come first.
As a business owner I certainly had plenty of income as well as other perks. Income inequality addiction was no longer a driving force of my life. In fact a quest for learning had replaced it.
My life’s paradigm shift occurred somewhere along the path of pages and paychecks.
And, as a parent I wanted to make sure my kids knew God and they understood how the world works from God’s perspective.
Group Leader: “”Can you tell us how you came to that perspective?”
“Sure. As I mentioned I studied Scripture. Three verses stand out: “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added.” and “Godliness with contentment” and w/o The Real Housewives of Orange County” “is great gain.” Also, “To whom much is given, much is required.”
My addiction to income inequality began to erode when I chose to cling to those things which are eternal above me, in me and in my children. Then, I was able to love others and rejoice when they gained. I did not need to be equal. I needed to be thankful.
I had finally realized that income inequality addiction is a character flaw. I had used my envy like a baseball bat. I beat the air hoping to smash open the paper mache piñata that held the material goodies I felt should rain down on me.
“I dropped the bat and put away childish things. Thanks for having me here tonight.”