Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: “I Don’t Do It for the Money” LFCL – Tom Zolot

I certainly don’t work/serve for the money.

Some harvest from the cooperative's garden at First Grace

Some harvest from the cooperative’s garden at First Grace

It’s not that money isn’t an issue, a reason, a concern, but I am young and privileged; I could have made a lot more doing lots of other things. I wouldn’t have even needed to compromise my morals, per se. Having graduated with honors in Linguistics from UC Davis and having experience with computational/syntactic linguistics, I could be coding away right now stacking up piles of money. Linguistics is, as far as I know, not at the top of anyone’s hate list and for pretty good reasons. I could have felt totally morally neutral working in Linguistics the rest of my days. And yet, I am not a linguist.

So why then? Why spend this time we could be working in service instead? Because there is something more important that work. I said it and I’ll say it again! There are things more important than work.  We seem to have cognitive understanding of this as a people, proverbs and cliches that maybe only get said in eulogies about how no one dies wishing for more work. However, despite our seeming to know this, we make so many decisions which defend work.  We often make radical life choices based on careers and employment setting aside most other factors. I don’t understand.

Work will keep us late. Work will wake us up. I myself have felt in a kind of purgatory if I go too long without working, kinda lost and useless. It seems that despite how much we say, “Oh, it’s not about the money,” it’s still kind of about the money. If we didn’t have to pay rent, auto loans, cell phone bills, how many of us would quit what we currently do? I already basically know the answer to this question and, additionally, I think less VISTA’s would quit than in the mainstream but there might be some. What this makes me ponder is after we had all quit these jobs, how would we spend our time? Given liberation, what would employ us?

I serve instead of making money. I chose service because I need my work, my career to take me further. Not only is only making money not enough, I will choose to make less money to be able to do the best work possible. And we all should do this. We need to have a reform which puts money anywhere but first on the list. And, yes, this will likely mean less money and a lower GDP and more bike riding and older tech for most of us, but I think many of us are transitioning. We are transitioning from having that cognitive, factual knowing, to really feeling and living that life is more than work. Feeling that labor spent only for profit is unproductive.

But, maybe I am wrong. Maybe money is king and it always will be. Yet, if I am not wrong, I am excited. Excited for the awesome ideas other people are going to come up with and for the results this will have for communities. Most of all I am excited to live with people who value (make life decisions) based on reasons other than money. Those people are going to be cool and I can’t wait to live among them.

Tom and Fernie

Tom and Fernie

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One comment on “Field Report: “I Don’t Do It for the Money” LFCL – Tom Zolot

  1. Jack Styczynski
    February 26, 2014

    I don’t have to pay rent, auto loans or cell phone bills. Less cell phones, more bike riding! Yay, VISTA! WHO DAT!

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This entry was posted on February 26, 2014 by in VISTA Field Reports.

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