One thing that is clear as a result of the difficult economy of the last 18 months is that we are all in this together. Sometimes, we might be tempted to think we can succeed at someone else's expense, but eventually those kinds of efforts sink everyone.
Overly ambitious mortgage bankers in the mid-2000s thought they could get ahead by pushing mortgages onto people with poor credit. The originators who made those subprime mortgages initially made money, as did the investment folks who packaged them into securities with top-grade mortgages. But look what happened. As high-risk borrowers stopped paying on those subprime mortgages, the mortgage-backed securities market fell apart; home values dropped, other credit markets froze, companies began laying people off, those looking for work had more trouble finding it, and consumers slowed their spending. Collectively, Americans lost about 20 percent of their wealth. This is a simplistic overview, I admit, but it illustrates the point that you cannot act in a vacuum. Your actions matter for yourself and for those around you.
In my faith tradition, this concept is called solidarity. It is actually an encouraging notion. It shines a spotlight on the significance of the actions of every individual. And while my example illustrates the point in a negative fashion, it is interesting to think about it in a positive fashion. When you do something good for another person, the effects of your action may extend far beyond that one individual. I know a doctor, for example, who helped a man suffering a heart attack. The doctor saved his life. The survivor happened to be a wealthy man and he was so grateful that he funded the construction of a new wing on the doctor's hospital. Perhaps thousands of lives have been saved as a result. That's a particularly dramatic example, but the point is you never know what the full impact of your actions will be. They may be much more than you initially expect.