Having Skin In The Game

“Skin In The Game” is a term coined by investor Warren Buffet referring to a situation in which high-ranking investors use their own money to buy stock in the company they are running (Investopia) Today this idiom also refers to having a personal investment in something or being connected to someone who embodies a type or a concept.

I often see what seems to be a disconnect between ideologies expressed on social media (well, everywhere really) between the abstract concept and the living, breathing person who that concept represents. This is hitting me hard today because I have become one of those living, breathing people recently. Now it is personal. I am a freeloader. Yep. I am receiving government assistance (well I hope to anyhow. It has been a month already and I have yet to see a check). I am sucking the teat of the American Taxpayers. And I am not proud of this to be sure. I only say this now so everyone can put a face to that term. I want you to put Skin in the Game. Like all of my co-freeloaders there is a story behind how I got here. My story is probably more socially acceptable than most and so maybe you don’t catagorize me that way.   I don’t look like one of  ‘those’ people.  Not yet anyhow.  I believe that we are all able to get through our every day lives because we are able to look past how much our lives teeter on the edge of disaster. We just don’t think about it. How could we go about our days if we really embranced the possiblility of a car crash every time we drove or thought about what disease is growing in our bodies. Could we deal with being a stay-at-home parent if we realized that our income earning spouse could leave us high and dry tomorrow? Could we enjoy a dinner out if we realized that we could lose our job tomorrow and not be able to find a new one? Is it just too scary to have empathy for those FreeLoaders because we can’t face the thought that we could become one?

I was continuously employed for 36 years. And in an instant I was transported to the Land of The Unemployed. I was married for 15 years and instantly transformed into a Single Parent and the spouse of a gay man. I am blessed that my family would never allow me to end up on a freeway off ramp begging. I am blessed that my upbringing taught me about having a strong work ethic and taking care of myself and my own. I am blessed that my brain is healthy so I can think clearly. I am blessed that my addiction to food doesn’t cause me to hurt anyone but myself. I was blessed to have a mom who could babysit my kids for free so I could work without paying childcare. But I didn’t really earn these blessings. I was blessed with them. I could just as easily be raised in an environment where I did not learn that I had any value. I could have found myself with those two little children and no way of earning an income and no family to fill in the gap. What if I could only find a job that didn’t pay enough to cover child care– would I have stayed home to raise my children even when that meant using food stamps?

And about those illegal immigrants. Someone explain to me how people can recognize that living in a cardboard shack on the edge of a Tijuana dump is such a horrible living situation that they are willing to go build houses there but that same person is not willing to understand why those same Tijuanans are willing to do whatever it takes to care for their families? Even if that means breaking the law. I have worked with many hard working men who were not legal and wanted more than anything to become legal but could not navigate the system which is not set up to help them do the right thing. By the way, those men paid into the tax system and the social security system but the will never be able to reap those benefits. If you had Skin in the Game would you see them as criminals or people fighting to give their families a home that is safe and clean and has food on the table? Would you do anything less for your children?

I am part of a very large network of Christian moms who have LGBT children. I am proud of this group. We struggle to incorporate our Church community that tells us we cannot accept our children for who they are and still retain our faith. We are allowed to love the sinner, but we must reject the person. Some of us feel forsaken by the Church because we love our children and we love other people’s children who love our children. See, we have Skin In The Game. I know that, on first glance this may be seen as just accepting a sinful lifestyle because we feel forced to in order to have a relationship with our kids. But that isn’t it. It is because when our kids came out to us the LGBT community ceased to be merely a faceless concept and became real, living, breathing people. All of them. Not just our kids. They became our family. Our kids and our friends’ kids became connected to us.

I know that being funny is my usual spiel and I am really going out on a limb here to deviate into the serious and possibly offensive— but I feel passionate about this so it is worth the risk that some people will find my words just too corrosive.  It is worth it to me, right now, to take this little stand in order that some people will spend a little time re-thinking their point of view. If you know me, you KNOW me.  You know what I am like. Now you might know some things I feel strongly about that you didn’t know before.   More than anything now you Have Skin In The Game.  And you will always have my face attached to those words and concepts.   And I count that as a pretty good thing.


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One Comment on “Having Skin In The Game

  1. I like the skin-in-the-game reference. The author, psychologist, linguist Steven Pinker would agree. He points out that the harder it is for us to understand an opposing view, the easier it is to believe the people who hold that view are morally bankrupt. After we’ve walked a mile in their shoes, or have skin in the game, we may still disagree, but it’s a little easier to understand that the person with whom we disagree may have circumstances other than moral bankruptcy to explain their position.

    I don’t want to politicize this, but think of the current chasm separating conservatives and liberals. A bumper sticker down the street says “Liberalism is a mental disease,” while one a block over calls conservatives “nut jobs.” Don’t those people know (and respect) anyone from the other camp? Can they put a face with the person they’re calling crazy? Do they have skin in the game?

    1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.

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