Friday, August 13, 2010


One hundred years from now,
It won't matter what car I drove,
What kind of house I lived in,
How much I had in my bank account,
Nor what my clothes looked like,
But, the world may be a little better
Because I was important in the life of a child. 

If you work with or have children, you have probably seen the paragraph above at least once in your life. Since I work at a non-profit pediatric rehabilitation center, I keep encountering it posted on bulletin boards and coworker's desks, and whenever I do, my reaction is the same. "One hundred years from now", I mutter to myself, "that kid'll be dead, too."

It's amazing how many untruths can be compressed into so few words. One hundred years from now it won't matter whether I drove a gas guzzler or a fuel efficient car? Won't matter whether my house was well-insulated and used solar energy as opposed to drafty and expensive to heat? Let me introduce you to Al Gore.

It won't matter how much I had in my bank account? Won't matter if I finish my years on welfare? Won't matter if my son spends what would have been his children's college fund supporting me in my old age? Let me see if I can find a bridge to sell you. That might help my bank account immensely.

Won't matter what my clothes looked like? Okay, that one is right, but try not wearing any clothes at all and use the "one hundred years from now" excuse. It matters now.

What does it even mean to say "it won't matter"? Won't matter to whom? To the people who will be alive one hundred years from now. They won't care what car I drove or what house I lived in, but if they don't care about me, then why on earth should I care what they are going to think? They don't even exist yet, and maybe never will, so when did they get a vote in my life choices? It matters to me, right now, what clothes I wear, what house I live in, what car I drive and what's in my bank account, and to try to argue me out of having a preference by pointing out that eventually I'll be dead and won't care strikes me as wrong-headed in the extreme. It's the kind of argument a mugger could use while stealing my car keys and spare cash - "Hey, lady, a hundred years from now you'll never even care."

The fact is that caring for children is an overly sentimentalized and underpaid task. If you can make people feel crass for even expecting to be paid for doing it, then you won't have to pay them (much). Sappy sentiments don't go far at the grocery store, I've noticed. Money does.

Besides, who knows what is going to have an impact on a child's life one hundred years from now? Maybe if I had traded in my eleven year old car and bought a new one five years ago, some car salesman would still have a job. Maybe the effect I had on the life of his child was to keep the kid out of college, or braces. Maybe if we had built that bigger house we talked about, some builder's child would be in medical school by now.

I propose a new meme. "One hundred years from now, it won't matter that the Saints won Superbowl XLIV, but even so, what I make for being important in the life of a child is 1/40 of  Drew Brees' base salary." It doesn't sound as poetic as the original, but it's something to think about.

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