Sam and his neighbors

Burbank, California; March,2003;
Joan Marques, MBA, Doctoral Student

Sam had built himself a reputation of dignity and reliability: every time something was needed in the neighborhood, he lent a helping hand. His wisdom, intelligence, insights, and not in the least his financial abilities, made him a neighbor everyone respected and wanted to stay friends with. Although Sam usually enjoyed his positive standing, he also had his days and mood swings when he was questioning the motives of his so-called friends for their loyalty toward him, and their willingness to accept his advises. He could not help but wonder if they would still look up to him if he became poor, ill, or insane.

Those were the days when Sam also realized that there is another side to every coin, even to the one called "good reputation." In those moments he could see crystal clear that some of his neighbors did not really like him: They barely endured his presence because he was such a generally recognized figure in the vicinity. But they were not all that positive about Sam's reasons for being who he was. He had heard through the grapevine that those neighbors were accusing him of selfishness, of being a control-freak, and of being a ruthless oppressor of weaker members in the surrounding area.

On days when these awarenesses presented themselves, Sam was wondering whether it was at all possible to just pack his bags and disappear, or to just close his doors and windows and cut off all contact with the environs. After all, his estate was large enough, and Sam basically had everything in house to survive: a small vegetable garden, a private well with pure water, and even his own generator if the electricity in the area would be discontinued.

< Sam felt that he did not really need the neighborhood for other than humane reasons: he just wanted to communicate and have friends. And he wanted to help where he could, whether some were questioning his motives or not.

However, the attitudes of the negative-minded ones in the surroundings had not missed their effect: They had caused Sam to turn inside and question his own motives. Sam was beginning to wonder if he really was the genuinely nice guy he made himself and his neighbors believe he was, or if it was--in sum--really all about selfishness. Was he being nice because his ego needed to be admired? Was he helping out because it established or increased his influence in the area? Was he keeping himself involved in the neighborhood because he wanted to save his resources at home while using up the general ones from the vicinity?

Sam scratched his head and sighed. Living was so complicated if you looked at it from close-by. It only started looking simpler if you took a few steps back and perceived it from a holistic point of view. After meticulous contemplation, Sam finally concluded that he would just continue to be who he was, facing his inner-battles and dealing as best as he could with the emotionally laden atmosphere that sometimes existed between him and some of his neighbors. He would yet continue to do what he thought was best, like a good old uncle, even if others did not always agree. You only have one perception after all: your own.

Now, think of Uncle Sam as the country that's known under this alias, and reconsider the contents of this article... Will you?