Sharing the Crayons

Photo: Crayons, © Judy Kennamer / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Crayons, © Judy Kennamer / Shutterstock.com

A few years ago, I was in a family restaurant that provides drawings for children to color and a bowl full of crayons. Across the aisle was a couple with two young boys. While the parents put in their order, the boys started coloring.

The boy who appeared to be a couple years younger took a crayon and used it, then put it back in the bowl and swapped it for a different color. The older one went about it differently. When he was done with a crayon, he would set it beside him. Soon, he had built up a stash of crayons, some of which his brother needed for his own drawing. The brother complained, and the mother intervened.

You have to share them, she told the older son.

The boy shielded the crayons with his arm and said loudly, "No! These are MY crayons!"

Is there a parent who hasn t had to remind their children that they re not the only ones who matter? 

"They re not your crayons,"  the mother said. "Theyre meant for you to share with your brother."

That moment has stuck with me as a real-life parable about owning and sharing. I thought about it the other day when I saw a bumper sticker on the back of a minivan that said: Don t Share My Wealth, Share My Work Ethic!  

Falling off the Fiscal Cliff: 5 Things You Need to Know

Image by Tim Teebken / Getty Images

Image by Tim Teebken / Getty Images

Now that the election is over, policymakers and the media have refocused their attention on the looming budget battles in Washington. In January, a variety of tax increases and spending cuts will go into effect unless Congress and President Barack Obama agree on a plan to avoid what has been deemed “the fiscal cliff.”

As the country braces for another fiscal showdown in the nation’s capitol, here are five things you need to know on the issue likely to dominate the news over the next several months. 

    I Have Seen the Problem, And It Is Us

    Photo: Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Anton Oparin / Shutterstock.com

    Photo: Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Anton Oparin / Shutterstock.com

    NEW YORK — It's a short walk from Ground Zero to the Staten Island Ferry terminal.

    If you're a dedicated tourist, you can see where a terrorist attack occurred on 9/11 and then hop a ferry to see where Hurricane Sandy devastated Staten Island's oceanfront last month.

    Sad to say, but that's exactly what many tourists are doing. Instead of going to Staten Island to help traumatized residents, they go to gawk. Then they go back to Manhattan for lunch and holiday shopping.

    This is what happens when people lose a basic sense of obligation to one another. It no longer seems sane or necessary to be charitable. Instead, people feel justified in looking away from need. They feel disconnected from neighbors who are suffering. When the storms of life hit, they call themselves “makers” and dismiss the “takers” as lazy.

    SNAP / Food Stamp Challenge, Day 4: Piatt FAIL

    Rubber ink 'Failed' stamp, Dimitrios Kaisaris / Shutterstock.com

    Rubber ink 'Failed' stamp, Dimitrios Kaisaris / Shutterstock.com

    I don’t mind failing as much as I do admitting I’ve failed. And technically, we haven’t blown the SNAP Challenge just yet, but I know for a fact we will by the end of the week.

    I went to the store last night for another loaf of bread and a frozen pizza for dinner, which I had promised my kids if they’d make it to mid-week without freaking out. This brought us down to eighteen bucks and change left in the till, which theoretically was going to be enough to fill in the gaps for other items we’d need to do our meals through the weekend.

    And then reality hit.

    SNAP / Food Stamp Challenge, Day 3: Slip-Ups

    Photo: Man making a mistake illustration, JPFotografie / Shutterstock.com

    Photo: Man making a mistake illustration, JPFotografie / Shutterstock.com

    Maybe the serpent in the Garden of Eden story actually was a cute little girl in pigtails. Sure would have been more persuasive than some stupid talking snake.

    Explaining to kids who have grown up their entire lives with such privilege is almost like trying to translate a foreign language for them. No, not everyone just goes in and grabs whatever they feel like from the fridge or the shelves. They don’t order in when they’re too tired or lazy to cook, and they don’t mark every mundane occurrence in their lives with a celebratory dinner out. It’s normal to them, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal.

    SNAP / Food Stamp Challenge, Day 2: The Shelf

    Photo: Clipping coupons, Jim Barber  / Shutterstock.com

    Photo: Clipping coupons, Jim Barber / Shutterstock.com

    I’m not making friends among my family members with this challenge.

    Because it was my idea to do this for a week (living on the equivalent budget of food stamps for seven days), everyone ends up coming to me to “check on the rules.” Basically, this means they ask me about ways they might work around the limitations of the challenge, and then get mad at me when I don’t give them a way out.

    Yesterday ended up being a mixed bag. My wife, Amy, and I had to go to the other side of town for some errands, and it didn’t occur to either of us that we’d be gone over lunch time. Fortunately, one of the errands was at an Ikea, a giant housewares store that’s known for it’s affordable cafeteria-style meals, so we made it work. But even with their reduced-rate prices, we spent more than $9 for both of us and little Zoe to eat.

    “Man,” I said, looking at my empty bowl, previously filled with pasta and Swedish meatballs, “that was way less than we usually spend going out, but it was still almost double what we have in the budget for one meal.”

    Forbes Columnist Responds to Edelman Poverty Piece

    Writing in response to Peter Edelman's article on ending poverty in America, Tim Worstall counters:

    The reason we can’t end poverty in America is not because the country isn’t rich enough to do that: it is rather because of the ignorance of those who would end poverty in America. Peter Edelman has an Op/Ed in the New York Times which shows this to horrific effect. And what’s really worrying is that Edelman is supposedly one of the experts on how we ought to reduce poverty.

    One point that has to be made about poverty right at the start: to all intents and purposes America, like all other industrialised nations, has abolished poverty. What we have traditionally called poverty that is. Proper destitution, people dying of starvation in the streets from the lack of the wherewithal to purchase food. Absent drug or mental problems this simply does not happen any more. The reason being that we’ve all had those industrial revolutions and the societies are rich enough that we make sure such doesn’t happen. Sure, different places have different ways of doing it, some more governmental and tax based than others, but that basic job of feeding the starving, clothing the naked and sheltering the homeless does get done.

    Read more here