Wednesday, December 30, 2009

OPINION: How Do You Teach Resourcefulness?

The Right Emphasis
by Doug May

As we begin a new decade it is good to take a glance backward to see what lessons we learned in the past that might help us to meet the challenges of the future. We look back to an ancient era before duct tape. During the World War II, farm boys drafted into the army confirmed their worth by putting together damaged military equipment with bailing wire. Their resourcefulness surprised many and saved numerous disastrous situations.
I believe that all of us are going to need to be more resourceful in the years to come. Webster defines resourceful as being “able to deal creatively and effectively with problems, difficulties, etc.” There are very few critics of this virtue. And yet, we don’t hear talk about encouraging, praising or teaching it.
When a difficulty presents itself it seems that the tendency is to organize, protest and try to force someone else to help us. Not only is the process of organizing and protesting a drain on our resources, but it seldom brings the results we had hoped for. And even when some help does come it is often at the expense of higher taxes and more regulations. We don’t need more activists. We need common sense and resourceful people.
The proposed health care legislation is not promoting resourcefulness. It is forcing employers to pay for health care insurance. There is no value in having employers involved providing health care insurance. They should pay decent wages, but the responsibility for health care is with each individual. Then, when a worker changes jobs he does not have to worry about getting new insurance that is often hindered by preexisting conditions. We need to provide information so the individual can set up a health-savings plan and catastrophic health insurance. If he could pay cash for doctor visits and medications the cost of these services would come down dramatically.
The prevailing attitude among our political leaders is that the individual cannot take care of himself. It is true that we all need more help in doing a better job of taking care of ourselves. Maybe we should promote resourcefulness.
The government seems to be doing just the opposite. For example, many schools have a goodly number of children coming to school without having eaten breakfast. The administration feels that they would learn more if they had breakfast. So the schools provides breakfast for the children. Did it solve the problem? No, the problem is bigger than we thought, for many workers, including teachers, come to work without having eaten a good breakfast. Does it effect their ability to work or teach?
The solution is teaching families, and not all of them are poor, the importance of good nutrition. And when the income is low it becomes doubly important to be resourceful, to be “able to deal creatively and effectively with problems, difficulties, etc.” I can hear some saying, “It will never work and some people will suffer.” It is true, some will suffer. Some of the most valuable things I have learned came from the consequences of my not planning for the future. It is unfortunate that we have to learn from our mistakes. Most people learn after being arrested for DWI, unfortunately some do not. However, the efforts to reduce DWIs are helping.
How do we teach resourcefulness? First we recognize its value, we call attention to it and we praise it. And in some cases we reward it. At this point we need legislation that encourages resourcefulness. People who learn to be more resourceful are more positive and happier.

Doug May is a retired Lutheran pastor and his views do not necessarily represent the Mountain Mail.

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