My plan to level-up America.
If I became president, I’m pretty sure I could fix most of the problems in our country. Unfortunately, I know jack squat about tax code and foreign policy, so I’d probably never get elected.
Regardless, I’ll share my strategy with you. Maybe you know about the tax code and foreign policy and you can run for president. You can steal my plan and I won’t even expect any credit for it.
If I was president, I’d start a program requiring every person to commit one year of their lives to each of the following jobs:
Job 1: A job taking care of another person
When I was 17, I got a job working at a center for developmentally disabled adults. At the time, I didn’t even know what that meant, but now, years later, I’m grateful I had the opportunity to do it.
The clients who came into the center were very low functioning. They came to the center to practice daily living skills like feeding, cleaning, and dressing themselves. A few of them had families, but many were senior citizens who had been become wards of the state when their families had abandoned them as children.
Most of my day was spent helping the adults who came to the center with their ‘toileting needs.’ This included changing adult diapers, applying rash cream to sore testicles, changing bloody pads, and doing tons of laundry because of the frequent accidents.
Initially, I approached these tasks with disgust. Truth be told, I almost quit after a few days. But then one morning, a client arrived from the residential facility where she lived wearing the same diaper she had gone home in the night before. It was swollen with urine and feces and oozing out the top and bottom.
When I saw her, my heart sank, but my reaction was to start getting her cleaned up. At that moment, I realized that I was no better than anybody else. Why shouldn’t I be the one dealing with the mess? It’s strange, but I felt proud to be able to care for this woman with compassion and tenderness.
I only stayed at the job for a year, but having the opportunity to work with and care for the people at the center has made me a better teacher, parent, friend, and citizen. I learned what a privilege it is to be responsible for another person, and I learned that pee, snot, and poop all wash off with a little hot water and soap.
Surely our country would be a better place if every person living here had the opportunity to learn these lessons. And the more you disagree with me, the more you need to learn these lessons for yourself!
Job 2: A job that makes you sweat
There are a lot of jobs that check this box. Carrying buckets, pulling weeds, clearing brush. Growing up, my grandpa would take my cousins and me out into the field of his farm to pick rocks. He’d stop the truck and we would hop out and run around collecting soda-can-sized rocks and throw them in the bed. Every year, there were more rocks to pick.
It was hot and sweaty, but I learned the power of bones and muscle. I felt the satisfaction of starting with nothing and ending with something.
Working a physical job, where you construct, destruct, or rearrange helps shape your view of the world. You can learn about Newton’s Laws of Motion from a textbook, but you don’t really understand them until you have figured out how to swing an ax and split a piece of oak firewood in one blow.
Physical jobs make you feel powerful in a way that typing on a keyboard never will. Our bodies are made to move, and it feels good to use them productively. Physical jobs burn calories, build muscle, and reduce risk factors for heart disease and stroke. What’s not to love?
Plus, there’s a lot of physical work that needs to be done! Our country is crisscrossed with failing bridges, overgrown with invasive species, and embarrassingly short on affordable housing.
So let’s get to work breaking a sweat and building a country.
Job 3: A job picking up trash
Yesterday when my daughter got off the bus, she asked if we could do something together. I expected a request to go shopping or make friendship bracelets. Instead, she asked if we could go to a street corner near her school. She had noticed a lot of trash on the corner and it had really been bothering her.
Trust me, it was the last thing I wanted to do on a gray, cold November afternoon. But how could I deny such a request?
We put on gloves and got trash bags and headed to the corner. She was right, it was gross. But we both felt great as we enjoyed the last weak rays of the afternoon sun. We filled our bags with beer cans, election signs, vape pens, 5-hour energy bottles, and fast-food wrappers.
It was very satisfying to see the difference we made in fifteen short minutes.
On the way home, my daughter asked how all the trash got there. “People,” I replied, “people who have never had to pick up trash before.”
She thought for a moment, and then confidently told me that she’s 100% sure she will never litter.
There’s trash everywhere. The oceans, roadsides, and cities are full of it. Maybe you’re someone who litters. Do you think you would still litter if you’d spent a year of your life working as a trash-picker-upper? I don’t.
That’s it. That’s my plan to fix the country. We can tweet, argue, and teach and watch TED talks or Fox News to learn about how to get along and rebuild our American identity. But really, what we need to do is go to work. And after working in jobs where we all learn about empathy, hard labor and not to be a litterbug, what’s left to fight about?
Do I have your vote?