This brings to mind a social and theological debate I’ve been having in my brain for several months. At it’s heart, the debate is the fundamental basis of a fair society – Equality vs. Equity. I’m the kind of person who can see both sides of every argument (except Sharia, child pornography, racism, Nazis, and a few others).
EQUALITY – the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.
EQUITY – the quality of being fair and impartial.
There are so many things in this picture that make me stop and think. It seems so simple. Yes – I would want all the kids to be able to see over the fence to watch the game. Yes – being able to see without any fence would be nice. No – the picture where the little kid can’t see over isn’t fair. And the meme is great if all the kids at the ball field just came there to see the game and watching the game was the sole purpose of the interaction of these 3 people.
But…there is a fine line between trying to do good and slipping over the cliff of totalitarianism.
Some alternative scenarios I can think of:
- Tall kid sees that the shortest one can’t see and offers him his box
- Tall kid asks shortest kid if he wants to get on his shoulders to see
- Shortest kid realizes he can’t see over the fence with his one box and he goes on the hunt to find a way to raise up his box
- Two shortest kids decide to combine their boxes and both stand on the top together
- Tall kid really isn’t interested in baseball and walks away leaving the box so the other two could use it
- Short kid and shortest kid get bored because they can’t see the game too well and start talking about pokemon and decide to hunt pokemons around the field and end up forging a new friendship
- All 3 kids use the boxes to build a fort and play soldier. The tall kid pops up and looks over the fence every now and then to tell the others what the score is.
- Tall kid is not allowed to get a box but he didn’t actually want to watch the game and just wanted to play with the box
- Shortest kid automatically gets what he needs and never has to create his own solution to the challenge
- Tall kid’s box is taken from him at gunpoint and given to the shortest kid
- Tall kid is required to walk on his knees to be the same height as the shortest kid but he does get a box
- Ball field owner makes his fence shorter in certain places to accommodate the short kids
- The ball field owner sees that the fence is too high so installs a big screen so everyone can see
- Ball field owner makes his fence shorter all around and cars in the parking lot are repeatedly damaged by fly balls
- Government forces the ball field owner to take down the fence to ensure fairness to the shortest kid; this leads to damaged cars in the parking lot and a few head injuries of the kids watching (but not protected by the fence any more)
So what is the right answer? Do we give everyone an even start and let each person use those resources according to their talents, creativity and passions? Do we distribute and manipulate resources to ensure everyone gets an even end result? Do we let the choice to share personal resources up to individual or do we force redistribution of those resources? Do we let the choice of using talents, creativity and passion up to the individual? Does the government see what is needed in society and determine how the talents, creativity and passion should be used?
I’m a Bible believer so here is a relevant story from God:
The parable of the talents. I am completely paraphrasing Matthew 25:14 – 30. God gives one servant 5 talents, another 3 talents and another 1 talent. The guy with 5 talents goes and invests his and doubles his talents and brings 10 back to the Lord. The second takes his 3 talents, works hard, makes 2 more talents and brings 5 talents back to the Lord. The third guy is ticked off that he only got 1 talent and so he buries it. When God asks him what he has done with his talent he digs it up and gives it back to God without even 1% interest from putting it in a lame CD. God blesses the first two equally even though they came back with different amounts of cash. Each one used his talents and produced dividends for the Lord. The last guy is cursed and sent away. God didn’t expect him to make 10 talents with the 1 talent he was given but He did have a purpose for that 1 talent to be used in His kingdom and the guy squandered it resentfully.
I’ll finish with a personal story. I sponsored a young girl in Ethiopia through Compassion International. Both of her parents died of AIDS and she was living in poverty with her grandmother. The small amount that I gave every month was used by Compassion to provide Elizabeth with schooling, uniforms, supplemental food, and many other needs. The letters I sent her every month and that she sent me every month encouraged us both and inspired us to trust the God who linked our lives. Elizabeth faithfully used her meager material resources with her incredible God-given intellect to graduate high school with honors (very, very rare for girls in Ethiopia). She was accepted into college (also very rare) and dreamed of being a doctor (like me!). Since Ethiopia pays for college education they have the right to determine what students will study. It was determined that Elizabeth would study engineering. It was not her first choice (or even second) and we were both disappointed. But gratitude is a way of life for her. I admire her so much. She eagerly and joyfully went to college to study engineering, promising to use her education, gifts and talents to help as many others as God will bring into her life.
I think of life as a tapestry being woven by God. On this side of heaven we can only see the underside of that tapestry – the knots, the skipped threads, the hazy image of something. Elizabeth and I trust that God works through his people and the end result will be a masterpiece more beautiful than we could ever have imagined!