I have five siblings. If innate intelligence, outgoing personality, initiative or reasonable financial stability are measures of success then all but one of us are successful. The sibling who stands apart from us was damaged at birth, and has a reduced mental capacity and social skills that pretty much put him at the level of a 14-year-old. This is not to say that he is unaccomplished or debilitated. On the contrary, he has a driver’s license (imagine a 14-year-old with a driver’s license!) is a pretty good artist and occasionally holds part-time jobs as a custodian or laborer. He gets by mainly on the good graces of his family.
My mom and dad have spent a ton of money – way too much money – supporting him as an adult. My sister, who owns the building in which he lives, provides him a place to stay, rent and utility free. More than once I’ve paid for his car repairs, taken him shopping for food and otherwise bailed him out of financial jams.
My brother’s real problem is that he has no concept of tomorrow, and lives entirely in the moment. Give him $100 and tell him it’s food money for the month and he will spend it in two days on whatever suits his fancy. Tell him that his car will not last another year and that he needs to seriously save for another one, and you can watch his eyes glaze over. Line him up for a job interview in two weeks and he will fail to show up. I can’t count the number of times he’s run out of gas because he had no money to pay for it, but continued to drive anyway.
So my parents save for his next car, and my sister continues to pay his rent. In the end, my brother survives – not as I would want to survive – but survives nonetheless on the charity of others. I do not think for a moment that he has any appreciation for what the others have been doing for him. He certainly does not – cannot – appreciate the true cost of living. He has no thought of the future or its potential problems, and I find it hard to pin any definition of success on him.
Yet, I wonder who’s more at peace in this world: Us, or him?