Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Time Management and Priorities

In 1976 or so in my early days with The Social Security Administration in Chicago I heard a story about the Detroit Downtown Social Security Office. In those days urban social security offices were swamped with claimants due to the problems with the Supplemental Security Income program which began in 1974. It had been normal in our office for claimants to wait 2-3 hours for service and there was no internet or other alternatives for service (before we began our telephone service).

The manager of the Detroit Downtwon Social Security Office was asked why he didn't have a section of his office taking claims over the telephone to ease the pressures on his staff. His response was: "I have 25 claims representatives taking claims all day long. How could I spare staff to take claims over the telephone?"

Taking claims over the telephone was more efficient than in the office. It also was a way to skim part of the workload (in a sense prioratizing it) so that those filing for retirement, disability and survivor benefits could not waste a lot of time just waiting.

Obviously, the manager was taking a short-sighted view of the problem that he faced. His claimants had no choice. They had to come into his office. He couldn't control the number of people who needed service. He could control how they were served.

Much of life is similar to the story above. We face time pressures day-in and day-out in our lives. We make choices, but often not good choices, as to how we live our lives. We see only the surface of our issues - and feel trapped.

When we're in "crisis moments" we may have few options. Much of the time though, it is our normal lives, seemingly out of control. When life is more leisurely, we have no need to organize things efficiently and prioratize, so we often are inefficient. Then things revert to long-term "craziness" and we're stuck.

Much in our lives doesn't need to be so complicated. We make choices as to what is important and often choose to take on too much in our lives. Even when we face such situations in our lives we do have far more choices than we see.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Rachel Corrie and Jonathan Kozol

Yesterday we saw a very well done production of: "My Name is Rachel Corrie" and afterwards heard her parents and sister and others talk about the play and her life. Rachel Corrie was killed at age 23 by an Israeli Defense Force bulldozer just over four years ago in Rafah in Gaza trying to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes there.

The play was written for a single narrator (Rachel Corrie) speaking from her diaries, emails and other writings about her life. The play portrays her as a lively, fascinating individual questioning much in worlds trying to work to make our lives better for All of us humans.

The play is very political, but also very personal and beautiful in exploring what is important in life (for all of us) as well how she was quirky and funny in many ways. I was crying at various times as the seriousness of her life grew once she arrived in Gaza shortly before her death.

I am reading Jonathan Kozol's "The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America" a fascinating book helping expose the underbelly of the U.S.'s public school system. Kozol's books are always fascinating and scary as he talks with poor, generally Black children in our inner cities.

Both Corrie and Kozol point to the need for all of us to work in many different ways to help make our planet a better place. They both indict the leadership of the U.S. in multiple ways as well as exposing the need for major changes in much in our lives and the lives of others affected by our lives.