Friday, June 5, 2009

Reclaiming the word "Bonus" from the Ash Heap of History...

We live in a world where people in the financial community have turned “bonus” into a debacle – who insist that there’s no reason to work at a place if you can’t make astronomical sums of money, who quit when large bonuses are not paid out to them by a bankrupt company.

(Click here for a glimpse into that world...)

I am a mother of three small children, and what has been hardest for me, with regard to the collapse of our economy, is reconciling the lessons I teach my children with the situation we have today. I teach my children to share, to help others, to work with others and to become stewards of our community.

I see that to succeed in America today, these lessons are fraught with contradiction. Sharing is out of the question. Greed is inevitable. Bonuses are structured so that performance is irrelevant. Really smart people use their intelligence to wrest the most money for themselves. Money is the end, not the means to an end, of our labor in this life.

I sound naive, I realize, in bemoaning all that. But as spring turns to summer, I've come to realize I'm not alone in my naivety - that outside of Wall Street and Washington, there is a world of people who actually work in jobs they love, money be damned, and who believe a "bonus" should be a reward for a job well done, instead of an inevitable occurrence.

With my children wrapping up their school year this week, I realize that teachers – good teachers, that is – show how nonsensical the Wall Street way really is. Teachers make okay money – not great – not awful. When they do their job well, however, they pass on a legacy that lasts for a lifetime.

My three children received a golden bonus this year for sure – they all had wonderful teachers who were passionate about their work and their students. A great teacher is a priceless gift to students – something no amount of money can quantify.

And as my children wrap up their year and head into summer vacation, I know that outside of Washington - outside of Wall Street, there are a bunch of teachers in my town who understand the true meaning of work – and who recognize that sharing the gift of knowledge is the true bonus that results from their labor.

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