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So Unfair Dad

After I published my recent article about how various local politicians, businesspeople, and former Caterpillar employees behaved after the announcement that Caterpillar was moving its headquarters to Chicago, I received an email from a man who is employed by Caterpillar in an upper-management position. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “James.”

James is in his 50s, and I’ve known him for more than 20 years. He began working for Caterpillar after he graduated from college. James has always been a loyal and dedicated employee of Caterpillar. He is very knowledgeable about the company. Here’s part of what he wrote in his email:

I agreed with all your points regarding personal reactions to the Caterpillar announcement to move its headquarters out of Peoria. I’d like to offer you a macroeconomic perspective, because corporations also have a responsibility to the communities wherein they reside, especially Caterpillar.

The entire central Illinois region is what it is today because of Caterpillar: good, bad and ugly. Caterpillar’s 92-year legacy in this region has created the community, and Caterpillar’s untimely departure will leave a hole that cannot be repaired. It’s not entirely wrong for people to be upset about that. I’ll give you one example that shows Caterpillar’s impact over this past century.

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[W]e have a 92-year history of being the most technologically isolationist company on the planet. For the first 70 years it was a perfect strategy. Today, it would seem like lunacy, but consider what Caterpillar did in the post-WWII period. Caterpillar petitioned the local, state and federal governments not to build the interstate highway system through Peoria. Instead, a little watering hole called Bloomington became a thriving community that pretty much has never seen a real recession since then.

Caterpillar started its new operation in Peoria by porting a bunch of people from Corinth, Mississippi, to Peoria and isolating them in order to control the workforce. It worked perfectly. We were able to build a tractor design and build and test capabilities that no one could copy. Now, diesel engines and welding massive pieces of steel together are no longer barriers to entry.

So, as your article points out, Caterpillar must do what it must to survive. That, however, does not absolve it from responsibility to the community it created and controlled for nearly a century.

While James may be correct to conclude that Caterpillar has a responsibility to the community, there is no one I know of who is in a position to force Caterpillar to live up to that responsibility. I suppose the mayor of Peoria or the city council could appoint a committee to investigate and determine what Caterpillar’s responsibility is to our community, but then who would have the power to force Caterpillar to follow through on that responsibility?

During the 1990s, when one of my daughters was a young girl, she repeatedly accused me of being unfair to her. One of her favorite sayings was, “That’s so unfair, Dad.” She repeated it so often that I started telling her that I was going to change my name to “So Unfair Dad.”

By stating that I was not being fair with her, my daughter was implying that she was entitled to be treated in a manner that was acceptable to her. Her entitlement mentality was based upon her own sense of what was fair. But each time she accused me of treating her unfairly, I told her that God does not guarantee that we will always be treated fairly. I also told her that during her lifetime she was going to have to deal with many situations that were not fair to her.

When we face God at the end of our lives, He will reveal to us why He allowed us to be subjected to unfair treatment. What He reveals to us at that time will make total sense because we will have a full understanding of what His plan was for us.

Sometimes God allows us to be treated unfairly because such treatment teaches us the virtue of patience. In other cases, the unfair treatment teaches us the virtue of forgiveness. But the most common reason God allows us to be treated unfairly is so that we will practice one of the hardest virtues there is to learn: the virtue of humility.

When Christ was being beaten and tortured, He could have easily declared that He was not being treated fairly and ended the abuse.

Of all the people who have ever existed and who will ever exist on this earth, Jesus was the only one who was actually entitled to be treated fairly.

Yet He accepted every humiliation that came His way. The most painful humiliations that He endured were not associated with the physical torture and public shaming that He was subjected to, but the betrayals of His closest friends and companions.

Did He complain about how He was not being treated fairly? No, He didn’t say a word about it. He simply continued to do what His Father wanted Him to do.

One of the best ways to serve our Lord is to work at being aware of and consciously setting aside our tendency to believe that we are entitled to certain favors and treatment. We then need to take personal responsibility for our own lives while working at acquiring a greater knowledge and love of God, and serving Him by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Life wasn’t fair for Jesus and it isn’t fair for you or me. But that’s okay, because the more unfair life is, the more opportunity there is for us to humble ourselves and submit to God’s will.

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