Robert Rimm has been the managing editor of Arch Street Press since 2010. His key interests include art and culture, social entrepreneurship, education, the environment and human rights. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and fluent in French and Russian, he is a widely published author and professional member of the Authors Guild, PEN America and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. His most recent book is Better to Speak of It: Fostering Relationships & Results through Creativity, focusing on core management and personal values in collaboration with Clive Gillinson, executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall (October 2016).
Photo credit: Designmilk
at a minimum: cardboard & character
How easy to take for granted…
…the hundreds of thousands of people—men and women with lives, loves and labors—are responsible for that cardboard carton carrying everything from beer and books to papers and paraphernalia.
The factory workers, the salespeople, the layers of middle and upper management, the stockholders who provide capital for payroll and expansion, the drivers who long-haul these yet-to-be-filled and already-filled boxes, the cities and states that depend upon the accompanying toll revenues, the highway workers who in turn pave and upkeep those very well-traveled roads, the bricks-and-mortar and online workers who stock, pack and send the boxes, the lawyers and doctors who stack them rafter-high, the paper recyclers alert to these soon-to-be discarded cartons… All of them spend their earned income on themselves, and their families and friends, which in turn creates sustenance for so many more.
The livelihoods of large numbers of adults (and by extension the upkeep and education of their offspring)—as well as the health of churches, synagogues and nonprofit organizations that depend upon the volunteer work accruing from emotionally generous people with their own needs met—directly depend upon the work ethic of all those critical behind-the-scenes workers who toil anonymously to keep our society functioning smoothly. What this means is that—just from cardboard boxes—millions of lives are fed, are able to buy shelter and transportation, and are allowed the opportunity to pursue happiness. Many of these people live extraordinary if quiet lives, impacting those far beyond their immediate circle. Character is built from daily labor, from feeding one’s family, from honest and invaluable work throughout all walks of life.
The market and competitive forces at work in preventing the minimum wage from rising to $15 range from defensible to deplorable, yet offering meaningful hope to countless workers who keep us moving invariably increases productivity and breeds the desire for self-improvement. Baltimore’s Democratic mayor Catherine Pugh just vetoed such a minimum-wage increase, saying that her city would become a “hole in the doughnut” if it required a $15-an-hour increase, given the immediate disadvantage that would create with neighboring cities and suburbs. Yet the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that fully a quarter of the residents of Maryland’s biggest city live below the federal poverty level.
These are valid and difficult circumstances to overcome, which can only be made solvable by active participation and input from all involved. Next time you’re rushing on the hither side of life, take a moment to stop and consider how many lives of character and integrity have been, are and will continue to be positively affected by that simple utilitarian cardboard box. Apply this metaphor to countless other products, and it’s not hard to see how we’re all interconnected, how we depend on people we’ll never know, how our own livelihoods are a degree of separation away from those of our neighbors down the street, across the ocean and beyond the airwaves.