Once upon a time, I was a nine-year-old kid with a paper route in suburban Chicago, and I wanted a basketball. My family lived a two-minute walk from the local school, and every time I looked at that playground's pair of hoops I thought how cool it would be if I could play there any time I wanted.
My job, though, paid only a penny a paper, meaning about 60 cents a day, and a decent basketball would cost me close to $10, or roughly three weeks' wages. Being almost 10 years old, I had other expenses, though I can't recall now what they might possibly have been. I had a savings account, but it was for putting money in, not taking it out.
Then I had a brilliant idea: I had a brother one year younger, so if I could talk him into splitting the cost with me, that basketball would be only half the price. We struck the deal, and bought the basketball. Not only had pooling our resources made the purchase possible, but we soon realized other benefits. For one, shooting baskets with somebody else is even more fun than shooting alone. And, because we spent so much time at the school yard, our father built a backboard and hoop on our driveway so we could play at home.
My brother and I went on to cut other deals of mutual benefit, and as an adult, I've had the good fortune to recognize how that same spirit of cooperation shapes the world I live in.
Where do the roads in our town, and criss-crossing our nation, come from? Drivers have pooled their resources by dedicating part of what they pay at the pump to build and maintain them.
Where do the schools come from that educate my children, and even more importantly, other people's children? Residents in my community have pooled their resources to buy the land, build the structures and pay the teachers.
Sure, putting ever more resources into bigger pools gets complicated, and it has to be done fairly and intelligently. But let's not take for granted the many basic things that have been made possible by people pooling their resources.
With a Perspective, I'm Hal Stemmler.
Hal Stemmler teaches English at Franklin High School in Elk Grove.