Motivation for the Marketplace

Seeking the Elusive Common Good

My felt needs tend to take precedence over yours, at least in my own mind. Left to my own devices, my decisions and my actions will reflect my selfish priorities. Please do not misunderstand me. Not all of my wants and desires are bad. In fact, most are decent and honorable, at least from my perspective. Actually, problems regarding my plans and goals surface only when they collide with the competing wishes and desires of others in my world. Most likely, you could sign off on the same confession, right?

Deciding what is good for me and mine from my vantage point presents a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. On the other hand, agreeing to accept the priorities established by other people, even when those decision contribute to the good of a larger group outside my narrow, personal world, presents me with an enormous challenge. Yet, working for the common good of my larger world is needed as never before in my lifetime.

Ironically, a renewed commitment to work for the common good of our larger world is passed on to us precisely because our world continues to shrink daily. As our world shrinks, it also expands with growth and incredible change. Take my hometown for example. Richardson, Texas vintage 1953 and Richardson, Texas today share very little in common. I grew up in a sleepy little farming village nestled on the highway to Oklahoma City about twenty miles north of Dallas, the cotton capital of North Texas. I raised my two daughters in the same geographic location, but not in the same environment. My girls grew up in a bustling, cosmopolitan urban setting jammed up against the city limit marker of Dallas to the south. My oldest daughter, like my wife and I, graduated from Richardson High School. When Brenda and I walked across the stage during our graduation ceremony at Moody Coliseum, we represented the only language group in the class. When our daughter walked across the very same stage, she was one of over twenty-five ethnic and language groups represented by the student body. Change rules our world and our community today.

Change translates into diverse needs, expectations and priorities, all competing for attention, resources and satisfaction. So, how do we manage our diversity and our needs in an ever more complex world for the sake of the common good of all? To use the category of Scott Peck, how do we achieve "civility" together for the benefit of as many of us as possible? Consider these principles for arriving at the common good:

  1. Remember your view point, your needs, and your priorities are exactly that: yours! When people decide to live in community, they agree to cooperate, compromise and communicate for common community goals. "Give and take" becomes a way of life in genuine community.
  2. Regard personal sacrifice as beneficial to everyone in your community, but understand that it must begin with you. The location of a new street, the change in a school's utilization or attendance zone, the opening of a new business, the growth of a church, changes in you firm's operating procedures or the needs of children and senior citizens provide us choices as members of a thriving community. We can object to everything not serving our personal, selfish needs, or we can remain open to a new vision of what would be best for the larger community.
  3. Learn to listen to those with whom you differ by actually getting to know them. How different would our community disputes feel and appear if people with competing points of view got together for the sake of understanding and appreciating the needs and perspectives of one another? Time is not wasted when we are listening!
  4. Our strength as a community arises out of our diversity as a people. People who are different from me and my family enrich my life, my mind and my experience. recognizing the benefits inherent in diversity will go a long way toward defusing tensions in many of our typical community disputes. Often our preconceived ideas about people who are different from us, rob us of wonderful experiences as well as personal growth.
  5. Never forget: children develop their notion of human civility by watching the adults in their world.

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