Sunday, April 13, 2008

Frontier, Africa, and the Mets

In the great whirlwind that is our lives lately, a few stars aligned yesterday. I'm back in New York (until the 26th)... these 3-weeks-in-one-place-then-3-weeks-in-another things are really starting to get to me. Please think twice if you're ever offered a job that involves "frequent travel". Especially if you're engaged and just bought a new home. On the up side though, I've managed to avoid a lot of airport headaches (and carbon emissions too!) lately by taking Amtrak (this next time will be my 3rd time so far) between NOLA-NYC. Working here is fine, but still, most of the time I'm wishing I could be in New Orleans.

So, to buy my time this weekend, I went to the Mets game (it was a great pitching matchup - Santana vs. Sheets). As I walked into the stadium, I was reminded of the excitement I always felt as a kid going to Kauffman Stadium in KC - the first glimpse of the freshly mowed green grass spreading out before you like in a dream, seeing the players (in real life!!) that you imitated at school and heard about on the radio everynight... it's easy to get caught up in it all. I had a great time, and I already have plans to go again. But about the 2nd or 3rd inning though, I caught myself thinking - "wow, this is the first time I've been to a game since coming back from Africa." Suddenly I felt very dirty. Suddenly everything seemed so wasteful - wasn't everyone here just ignoring the 'real world' for a few hours while watching over paid, over grown boys playing a game? (with a new $600M stadium being built beyond the outfield wall, for next season). What was it all for - and why has my country come to this, where new stadiums are given the fast track priority while funding for kids with malaria in africa is being cut??

Now I fully recognize, like Megan says, "sometimes you just want the damn donut!" - a little indulgence now and then is fine and we can't all live these super-idealistic lives where we all become organic farmers knitting our own socks from goat wool in the hills somewhere, but there has to be a balance. As a generally wealthy society, we should be able to come to a compromise with ourselves that allows us to assist some of the world's most vulnerable populations, and also keep a good standard of living at home. I know Megan and I have struggled lately with similar thoughts - do we buy the sustainably made bamboo blanket for $50, or the cheap one made in China? And how can we make extra mortgage payments when there are literally miles of homeless in tents down on Claiborne?

For the train ride in to the game, I brought along Barack Obama's 1st book "Dreams from my Father". Earlier in the day, I had been reading the part where he finally gets a chance to visit his family in Kenya for the first time in his 20s. He becomes overwhelmed witnessing the extreme poverty in the slums of Nairobi on his way to a safari with his sister. Together, they realize the dilemma that exists between preserving good farmland for environmental protection in the national park and letting the Kenyan government allow some of these people to move to the lands occupied by the national park, so that they might be able to farm and bring themselves out of poverty... and the agonizing need for balance. When it comes down to it, we have (HAVE) to do both. When presented with such stark choices it may seem impossible. But I really believe there is enough in the world to go around for all of us - that we will be better as a society and as individuals the more we keep each other in mind.

Which brings me back to my opening thought - travelling. On Friday, my favorite airline, Frontier Airlines, declared bankruptcy. They're still flying, but they may not last much longer - which is a shame, because they have the best, friendliest employees of probably any airline I've ever experienced. It seems pretty inevitable right now that the future of flying in America will return to super-expensive seats, and limited options that only businesses can afford. For the average person, flying will become a luxury again (arguably, rightly so - we need, NEED! a better rail system). But the next couple of years will involve a lot of sacrifice, I think, until things sort themselves out (both in the airlines and the economy in general). It won't be as easy as a presidential election, or a new agreement for aid to Africa, or a renewed commitment to preserve the environment - but those things may be steps toward the realization that we're all in this together.


daniloandjaclyn said...

Well put..I agree...

Megan said...

"But I really believe there is enough in the world to go around for all of us - that we will be better as a society and as individuals the more we keep each other in mind."
This sentence really stood out to me, Mr.'s like your thesis or something. I like the idea of "abundance for all." Not abundance like having any nice car/clothes/restaurant/crap you want, but abundance meaning that you can actually ENJOY life w/o worrying about your next meal/hospital access/your child's safety at school/etc. And I agree about having a balance...I feel like A LOT of things boil down to that...a solid balance is necessary.