Success Is Hollow Laughter

July 24, 2008
By Jesseca Bear, Colorado Springs, CO

It's amazing to me how big a part corners play in a room. They are sharp turnings of walls shifting into each other—supporting and mending together a space. Think: without corners, there would be no room, only walls standing idle until swaying and falling to the ground.

It's also amazing to me how corners of society—the strong and stable support a community depends on—are made of the weak, unstable, and forgotten.

It's mainly in their voices, I've decided. Everywhere I go like a paper doll mass their voices collect and they refrain from leaving my memory. Of all the things I'd like to forget—it's the voices, the ones echoing the same tone in uttering the word "success".

I admit—I am guilty of becoming comfortable. I am also guilty of being a strong competitor for recognition. It's in these things that I've found myself separating myself from people I found unfamiliar, such as the homeless, elderly, rich, disabled, poor, and many other stereotypical social classes I've left out.

Last July I started volunteering at this rundown nursing home downtown. It was there that I met Vera, Marie, June, Pat—and so many others who are now like family. As they recalled stories to me, remembering childhood memories so much better than I could remember my own as if these stories had been bottled up inside them for years just waiting for a listener, I saw the distinct glow of hope alight in the darkness of isolation in their eyes. It was a frightening eye-opener into what the cost of competition really was.

So in a country where we're free and equal and have the same opportunities at success—a term we relate to smiling faces, green dollar bills, and pin-striped suit corporations—I believe many people are becoming so caught up in the race to win and to grasp some socially elite title that we (myself included) are forgetting the people in the corners, or are recognizing them only long enough to trample on them. I think most people would agree that there's a lot more to being "successful" than climbing up the corporate ladder. Success is largely based on how much you give to those around you, not how much you take away by turning a blind eye from the problems that surround your world.

America is the only country with the amazing gift of freedom and equality. I think it's challenging for Americans to not get comfortable and not become idle—it's challenging to remember that as citizens of the U.S. it's our job to work hard in celebrating and practicing our freedom. The revolution of realizing this concept lies in the building up of communities—the concept of freedom lies in its country's people.

So today I challenge us—not just you or myself—to come together and consider ourselves successful by taking our freedom into action: uniting people and igniting our relationships rather than just feeding our individual fires. I challenge us to take chances and to serve one another—to look into another's face and see the complexities we all share that are wavering in the lamplight of our free spirits.

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