I Thought I Was Indispensable

Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, I could not avoid being caught up in the car culture. Every year on the third weekend of August, Woodward Avenue transforms into The Woodward Dream Cruise. This has grown to become the largest classic car event in the world and is attended by close to 2 million people with over 40,000 cars and trucks on display.

Woodward Avenue, the main thoroughfare that begins at the Detroit River, runs northward for over 20 miles, crosses 8 Mile Road and enters a series of suburbs until it reaches the City of Pontiac.

The Woodward Dream Cruise began in August 1995, as a small fundraising event to solicit donations to build a soccer field in suburban Ferndale and surprisingly was attended by 250,000 people. With that kind of popularity it evolved into a Motor City annual rite of summer and continues to thrive and raise money for worthy causes.

I participated in the cruise a couple of years ago and will never forget driving past the section of city blocks of local municipal cemeteries that lined the route. My cruising buddy commented as he gazed at the rows of gravestones: “Look at all those -indispensable- people!”

I continue to ponder that poignant yet morbid observation. Don’t we each trust that we are worthy and important individuals in the various roles we play in our private and public lives?

I somehow believed when I left the small suburban police department for which I served, that in my absence crime would be rampant. After all wasn’t I indispensable? I was a knight in shining armor, donning my armor and sword, charging on my white horse, to defend the defenseless and correct the injustices and right the wrongs.

Years later I revisited the department, which has grown threefold, and quickly discovered that someone else stepped in and was doing my job and doing it well. Even more telling, I didn’t know anyone and nobody remembered me.

This is when I recognized that the world waits for no one. The universe had another knight waiting in its castle with an even shinier armor and sharper sword than mine.

Human nature does not accept the act of toiling for the sake of toiling. We are by nature goal-oriented and find it irresponsible to invest our personal resources without accomplishing anything. Life as we perceive it, has a beginning and an end. This concept applies not only to our mortality but to all aspects of our existence. This is the circle of life. It is human nature for a person to expect that his or her actions and achievements will last, even that they will outlast their own life. We would love to believe that our chosen work and achievements are indispensable, knowing full well that reality is different. Therefore, we are inclined to write directives and testaments for the next generation.

Nonprofits tend to attract leadership that can inspire and organize others. This has a ripple effect that will attract a new generation of young people to various causes. The continual legacy of good philanthropic work lasts a long time, because when we effect change in one life, we change the world.

How much more so, when a nonprofit runs a program to increase retention through graduation to reduce homelessness, to teach parenting or financial literacy. Grants for nonprofits to develop these programs can be found on GrantWatch.

We may all be replaceable and we may not be indispensable, but we should not be melancholic, and we need to accept that the universe moves on. We need to plant a fruit tree even though we may not live long enough to see our sapling grow and bear fruit.

It remains our task in life to make a difference while we are here. Leave the world a better place; is a strong and meaningful motto. That all happens through charitable nonprofits and the human resources that comprise the dedicated leadership, volunteers , and donors.

About the Author: Jake Tewel holds a Masters Degree from YU. He has been a wine seller, caterer and a million miler for the past 15 years. Jake is a best friend, great neighbor, your go to travel person, father, grandfather and loving husband. He is now focusing his efforts on heart healthy nutrition, exercise and travel.

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