My parents were children of the Great Depression and I heard this phrase many times in my childhood: “Life isn’t fair.”
I was taught that the world didn’t owe me anything and that I had to work harder and smarter. Then, maybe, I would find some level of success in life.
There is a quote from unknown origins that says: “If you expect the world to be fair with you because you are fair, you’re fooling yourself. That’s like expecting the lion not to eat you because you didn’t eat him.”
Fairness isn’t always reciprocal. I’m sure you can think of many examples in your own life where this is the case. Your finances may dictate that you need to sell your car to pay off a loan but the potential buyer wants a great “deal” and makes an offer that is far below market value, even though the car is in excellent condition. Or you agree to do a job for someone who then says they can no longer afford to pay the agreed price. Even worse, maybe you didn’t get the agreement in writing and the other party denies agreeing to the terms!
We all know of nice people who have been treated unjustly, or downright nasty people who have experienced undeserved financial successes; good people who have experienced the horror of a terminal illness and bad people who have always enjoyed excellent health.
It’s just not fair.
As a CLAC representative, I have had the privilege of helping good people who are going through tough or worrisome things: arranging for short term disability income while they recover from an illness or injury, getting counselling for a troubled teenager, medical assistance in a foreign country while on vacation, and financial assistance for those who have lost a loved one. I have found satisfaction in the ability to help our members in these and many other ways. But this too is unfair.
Every day, I pass workplaces where employees are not represented by a union and have no benefits or extended healthcare to assist them when they are going through life’s trials. It’s not their fault. They found a job and are probably happy to have it—even if it barely pays the bills. Not everyone is unionized after all. But still, it doesn’t seem fair.
Upon reflection, I can’t help but think that as unfair as life can be at times, so many of us have it better than many of our hardworking neighbours. This is especially true of those whose ranks include the working poor, new immigrants, refugees, and those struggling with mental health and addiction issues. In truth, many of us have so much to be thankful for.
I think the Irish poet Oscar Wilde was right when he said: “Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.”