I Deserve What

The reports of some professional golfers signing to play for a new league remind me of an old story that goes like this modern version: Senator Pockets attending a fund raiser is approached by a well-heeled lobbyist who says, “Senator, my group needs your help with some pending legislation.” “Well,” answered the Senator, “call my chief aide tomorrow with the details. Now, how much of a  contribution is your group prepared to make to one of my re-election committees?” “We were thinking $10,000,” answered the lobbyist. “My gracious,” responded Senator Pockets, “do you think my influence can be purchased?” “Oh,” the lobbyist answers, “We’ve established that. We’re just arguing for  how much.”

            John Feinstein reports the following exchange between two well-known professional golfers: “McIlroy and Garcia are good friends; they were in each other’s weddings. But when Garcia told McIlroy the reason to join the LIV Tour was ‘so we can finally get paid what we deserve,’ McIlroy laughed out loud. ‘Sergio,’ he said, ‘We’re golfers. We don’t deserve to be paid anything.’ ”

             In fact, the entire reasoning of Sergio Garcia and his sense of entitlement expressed in the quoted exchange, also prevails with too many of our elected leaders. They seem to think that being elected to public office is an entitlement and not a service. Power and money rule their decisions. If you don’t believe me, examine the faltering gun safety measures and other needed legislation that languishes somewhere in the bowels of Congress.

            Deserve is a much-abused word. Not only is it abused by golfers and other professional athletes and their owners, but politicians also abuse it to manipulate voters into thinking that they have, somehow, been cheated of something they deserve. But what do we deserve–if anything?

            Deserve is a verb which  means “to be worthy.” It is derived from the Latin word, deservire which means “to serve zealously.” So, as I understand this brief etymology of the word, it seems to me that “What I (and you) deserve is the privilege to serve not ourselves but our society, our country, even our world. But as used by Garcia and so many others, deserve is a verb of taking, but it should be one of giving.

            Some golfers who have signed with the new league offer light excuses for their choice, such as, “It’s good for golf.” Like the words of Senator Pockets, however, theirs are only a self-serving rationalizing that makes a shoddy attempt to cover the truth: They signed on because of their greed.

            McIlroy gives us all good advice. We may not be golfers or famous athletes or politicians, but we all are citizens who deserve to give back, not to take simply because we are here.

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