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From my perspective

It's useful to be reminded that lots and lots of people live on less than a dollar a day.

When I fill out surveys asking for my household income, I get confused. My husband and my salary combined lands us squarely in the checkbox making us ineligible for any sort of assistance. We are not rich; on the contrary, we both have chosen relatively unambitious paths with relatively unimpressive incomes. But we have college degrees plus some and therefore check a box on the richer end of the spectrum.

But of course, we are rich, in a way. I've been to third-world countries, and so-called second-world countries like India, where it's plainly obvious that living in America is different.

Arundhati Roy, who spoke in Madison last week, left me with a strong visual about our distinct human position: neither beast nor prophet, we think too much but cannot see into the future. We are trapped by our desires for more than family, food and shelter leading us to be greedy without a sense of what our greed is doing to destroy us as a species.

Two months on a journey around south India made me want children. Like so many in my demographic, I'd been on the fence until my mid-thirties. Repeatedly, I was asked by generously friendly Indian men and women where I came from. The next questions were typically more personal: was I married; did I have children. The nomad in me fell silent and the human in me rose to the surface, understanding that, no matter land or culture, everybody has a mother and everybody was a baby. Birth, parenthood, and family are basic commonalities. This is not to judge those who don't have kids, just to say that for me, having kids was a choice not to be so greedy and selfish. I'm focused on something other than more stuff, more experiences, more more more.

Driving through a neighborhood with landscaped yards, two-car garages and cul-de-sacs, I know there are so many things out of my reach financially. But I was raised to be self-reflective and grateful, to see the good in my life while understanding that, even in the worst of times, there is always someone else suffering too, or more. It is human to suffer, and human to have perspective and understand context. That is what I appreciate about the humanities, or all the ways we humans have found to explain and describe and find meaning in our human existence. I think the humanities make us less greedy.

So, if non-profit leaders (many of whom actually have degrees in the humanities) could benefit from a short-course MBA, many CEO's could learn a great deal from the humanities. It's about perspective.

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