$5 isn’t much
by Henry Burt Stevens
September 23, 2003
Who’d start a fuss over $5? Well it depends.
At a time when institutions of every stripe are breaking their word, promises and contractual obligations it came as a shock to me when the Mayflower Society of Vermont billed me, a life member, $5 for postage for my newsletter for the coming year.
I’ve been a member for years and a life member since 1992 and, of course, I always received my quarterly newsletter. What is the meaning of a life membership if there are to be surcharges as the board of directors feels pinched in their budget? I fussed and fumed to myself and sent in my $5 and promptly put the whole problem out of my mind.
But yesterday I received an official letter from Dana K Roecker, Governor, Vermont Society of Mayflower Descendants saying, “Dear Society Life Member, The Board of Assistants, at its meeting in June 2003, rescinded the Green Mountain Pilgrim Subscription fee of $5.00 per year for LIFE Members. Since you paid this fee, you many have it refunded, if you wish. ”
This is not the same thing as Enron employees losing their pensions and 401Ks. It is not the same as declaring unilateral unprovoked war on a country we are peace at, and using untrue statements as a rational. It is not the same as cutting social services to poor people. It’s $5 from someone who can afford it.
However, I see a larger meaning. If the Mayflower Society, a high minded and very well off group of people, can officially create and approve a moral lapse of judgment using the same flexible rationales as Enron and President Bush, and for an amount as tiny as $5 then something is seriously wrong with the world I live in.
I’m going to retreat further into my own little sphere, where I can use my own little sense of right and wrong to guide me. Certainly I am not going to adopt these previous stated examples of right and wrong.
I’ve only had a regular full time job for two years in my whole life and I’m now 70. The rest of the time I made my own way using my own time, my own money, running my own business. I did business my way. I never had to follow a board of directors about implementing a plan I didn’t think was right. I could make my right and wrong decisions by myself, as I went along.
Henry David Thoreau said, “We make ourselves rich as we make our wants few.”
Not only rich, but we can preserve a sense of right and wrong by not placing ourselves as individuals, or businesses, or nations in a position where our wants force us to compromise by wrecking employee pensions, creating war for unstated ends, cutting benefits to the poor or socking life members for $5 postage.
We can learn to do right by learning to want less.