When I was twelve, my father said to me, “When a person is born, it’s like taking a stone and throwing it into a pond. It makes a big splash and people gather around to talk and celebrate. They watch as the stone makes an eddy in the pond and then they leave and go about their daily life. That was you when you were born. Everyone was excited; they came and brought presents to celebrate your birth.
“When a person dies, it’s like a hand reaching into the pond and taking out the stone. There is a small eddy that the hand makes when it takes the stone out of the pond and people gather around to talk about the person who has died. Then everyone leaves and they go about their daily life. And that will be you at the end of your life. For a short time people will come to mourn your death and then they will get back to business as usual because life is for the living.”
Hmmm. I remember thinking, “if that’s the birth and death cycle for everyone, I guess I’m not so special after all.”
I’ve thought about that off and on through the years. At the age of twelve you think you will live forever. You are immortal, indestructible, and impervious to the vagaries of life. Sickness and accidents happen to other people, but not to you, never to you.
Depending on your childhood experiences, you may or may not have had to work hard for approval and acceptance by your parents, teachers, and peers. For many children, gaining that approval and acceptance is a lifelong struggle that transfers from one set of circumstances to another, showing up in every aspect of one’s life.
It can start out with a child who is desperate to please a parent or foster parent as a means of ensuring his place in the family. It might also be seen in an employee who devises his own system for keeping track of clients’ accounts or bookkeeping ledgers in the hopes that by being the only one who can figure out his system, he will become indispensable to his employer.
When I was a teenager, I wasn’t trying to be indispensable to anyone but I ended up doing something similar to this without even trying. Keep in mind that this was a long time ago when we lived in an age of innocence and people kept money in homes and not in banks.
I knew my mother kept some money in a file for household receipts under the letter M for Money. She kept it for emergencies because in those days there was no such thing as credit cards. She was extremely organized and so was I so it made sense to me to start my own file and put some money in it. It was no secret; I had nothing to hide.
One day, I came home from school and my mother met me at the door looking a bit frazzled (not her usual demeanor) and she asked me where I had stored my money because there had been a minor emergency. She said she had looked in my file folder under M for Money but there was nothing there. I told her it was filed under the letter T.
By this time, the family had gathered around waiting to hear my explanation as to why I stored my money under the letter T. In my mind, it was very logical … I stored it under the letter T for Trip because I was saving up to take a trip with a few of my friends during the Easter holidays.
In later years, I came across many of these incidents but whereas the system I devised as a teenager for storing money was done without a hidden agenda, I discovered that people use these strategies all the time as a way of securing their position.
Gang members often use these strategies to try to make themselves indispensable to the head honchos. They are the ones who carry out the dirty work, e.g., carrying out assassinations, blackmail threats, providing drugs, guns, prostitutes, etc. It’s not only their way of feeling special; it’s their way of making sure that they are in a position of power over those in the lower echelon of their society.
There has always been some kind of jockeying for position in society; some use these strategies with malicious intent and some use it to protect themselves or their position, be it within a family, a group, a relationship, or in a business. Some use it to intimidate, to cause fear, to influence, or to promote a person, a product, or a cause.
And some people use these strategies as a means of feeling special.