My Canadian buddy, Robert McGarvey regularly reminds me of one of America’s greatest stories.
In 1861 President Lincoln signed The Homestead Act and began the greatest experiment in mutual cooperation and prosperity in history. For 50 years there after the US gave people land in exchange for their commitment to develop it.
People flooded in from all over the world and they were given the opportunity to develop an asset. They were given 160 acres and if within 5 years they cleared the land, cultivated crops, built a house and a barn they were given deed to the land. The great thing about an asset is it stores up all the energy we invest in creating it. It tripled the value of their time and energy. Stored it up for their benefit and that of their heirs.
We believe tomorrow will be better than yesterday. We’re unwilling to accept a declining future or for that matter a stagnant status quo.
Now the American myth of rugged individualism has been supported by all those Hollywood films that show the lone pioneer occasionally with his nuclear family chopping down trees, building a cabin and plowing the fields and we as a nation celebrate that pulling yourself up by the bootstraps vision.
But the true genius was requiring a barn. You couldn’t build a barn by yourself. You needed your neighbors help. That was inspiration. It created community. A sense that we were in this for more than just ourselves.
Americans volunteer more than any other people in the world. We give more money per capita to charities than any other people in the world. Habitat for Humanity is a purely American idea. People volunteering to build other people’s home in the belief that they too will be building their own home one day.
We are a nation of immigrants. We are all foreigners. Even our Native Americans came here from some place else. Start looking for ways to help one another regain our belief in our potential.
Start looking for ways to help one another and we’ll start helping ourselves.
There’s a parable of heaven and hell where people sit at the table with utensils too big to feed themselves with. The folks in the room starving as they try to feed themselves is hell. The room where the folks use the tools to feed one another is heaven.
America’s brand of capitalism is the highest form of cooperation the world has ever seen.
Remember, we live into the stories we tell ourselves. Look for ways to cooperate. You can. We can, together! Let’s get back to living a story worth living, together.