You Might Make More Money, But That Doesn’t Make You Better than Me.
The case for treating everyone with respect.
Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re a successful financial advisor, working for one of the biggest banks in one of the richest cities in the world, New York.
You work long hours and you rake in a six figure salary. You live in a big apartment with sweeping views of Central Park and you own a shiny BMW with buttery leather seats. You wear the fanciest clothes and spend tons of money on exotic vacations twice a year. You have a pretty girlfriend and you can basically afford everything you ever wanted.
Life is great. Life is amazing. It couldn’t get any better than this, you think.
But even though you have all these things you’re also the type of person who screams at people in traffic and speeds down the freeway and cuts people off because you’re running late. You’re also the type of person who yells at fast food workers and servers at fancy restaurants and maybe you’ve even thrown things at people once or twice.
You look down at cashiers and store clerks and maids and janitors and home health aides. You imagine you’re much smarter than them because you spend 60 hours a week crunching numbers at a computer while they spend 70 flipping burgers on a grill.
You don’t pity their poverty but you blame them for it, certain in your belief that they’re simply much lazier than you and if they would only work harder or were more intelligent they wouldn’t be here.
You forgot about your own dumb luck, your privilege, your status, your wealth.
You decide because you’re that much smarter and wealthier that they don’t deserve your respect or your kindness and so you lash out.
You convince yourself that this type of behavior is okay, because after all, it’s their job.
It’s their job to wait on you and take your abuses.
At the center of all this is the core belief that you’re better than everyone else.
You’re better than them because you work in an office building downtown and make six figures.
You’re better than them because you can afford a car and an apartment and healthcare and food and an education without taking on debt.
You’re better than them so you don’t have to work weekends or evenings. You really wouldn’t even need to work overtime. You just choose to. Or your boss tells you to.
You think you’re better because all your clothes are new, designer. Not thrifted.
You think you’re better than these people.
But you’re not. And you never have been. And no matter what you do in life you still won’t be better than them.
Because inherently, nobody is better or worth more, than anyone else.
Some of us might be smarter or better looking or faster or stronger or more creative or better cooks or better mothers but that doesn’t make you better than someone who can’t do any of these things.
We like to say that everyone isn’t equal.
That because we all have this innate differences and abilities and because some of these differences have more economic value that’s it pointless to strive for equality because it can’t exist.
But I like to say that it is because of these differences, not in spite of them, that we all deserve to be respected, to be treated as human beings.
Because after all, who are we to assign value to the abilities of each individual person on this Earth.
After all, you may not see value in storytelling, but to one person, the stories of others might be all that gets them to the next day.
You may not see the economic value in care taking, but to that elderly woman who lives at the end of your road, their caretaker means the world to them. They provide company. Peace of mind. They help to keep them alive.
These people may not grow the economy or create jobs, but they provide value beyond measure.
You are no better than anyone else, just because you make more money or have a fancier job title and a degree.
So imagine that you are my imaginary financial advisor again, but this time you treat your server and your clerk with compassion and dignity.
Imagine the smile on their faces. Imagine the burden you have lifted from their shoulders.
Remember that everyone deserves respect.
Everyone deserves kindness and patience.
And everyone deserves love.
And maybe, just maybe if we began to see everyone this way, the world might be a better place.