Guest Columnist – The 1% In All of Us
January 29 2020
The following appeared on Nancy Northcutt’s Facebook page the day of Joan Eddy’s funeral, and is used with Nancy’s permission.
The 1% in All of Us
I had one commitment today – attending a friend’s funeral. I didn’t make it. I was up early this morning, as always, so I spent some time reading and checking the news. I enjoyed a bagel with my coffee.
When it was time to get ready, I turned on the bathroom faucet to brush my teeth. A splattering of water, followed by unnerving sounds, came from the pipes. I tried the kitchen faucet with the same results.
I hurried downstairs fearing a flooded basement, but found nothing amiss. Then, I phoned my neighbor. “Do you have water?” I asked. “Not for the last hour or so,” she said. I waited and waited – nothing.
Other than setting up my rain barrels when the approaching summer looks to be dry, I don’t give much thought to water. Now, I could think of nothing else. I couldn’t get a drink of water if I was thirsty, couldn’t flush the toilet, couldn’t shower. Still hadn’t brushed my teeth, and only enjoyed coffee because I’d poured water in the coffeemaker the night before.
As time passed, I wondered – what if this was normal life? What if the only way I could get water to drink, to cook, to bathe was by loading empty containers in my yellow garden wagon and pulling it along the street to wherever clean water was available, then pulling it back home again? What if I had to think about water all the time – getting it, storing it, making it last just as millions of people around the world are forced to do?
Chuck Collins, great grandson of Oscar Mayer, felt guilty about being rich, so he gave away his inheritance when he was 26 years old. It didn’t change anything. He realized that, even without the money, he was still privileged through his education, growing up with access to good health care, and through lifelong family, business and social contacts, and by simply living in America.
Years later, he wrote in his memoir, “Born On Third Base,” that most of us are in the 1% one way or another, we just don’t realize it. We are privileged in so many ways that we think of as just part of a normal life, like being able to turn on the kitchen faucet and fill a glass with clean water whenever we’re thirsty. I don’t have much, but, I have enough. I’ll try not to forget how privileged that makes me.
And, Joan, I’m sorry I didn’t make it to your service. Being who you were, I know you will forgive me. It was a privilege to know you.