April 26, 2010 – 12:15 pm
Where does this all- important trust come from? It has to start with a loving family, that then extends outward to a caring and secure community.
By: Peter Buffet
You’re Warren Buffett’s son? But you seem so normal!
Over the course of my life, I have heard many versions of this comment, and I have always taken it as a complimentâ€”a compliment not to me, but to my family.Â Why? Because what we mean by “normal” really comes down to this: that a person can function effectively and find acceptance among other human beings. To put it another way, it means that a person has been given the best possible chance to make the most of his or her own life.Â This ability, in turn, can only come from an embrace of the social and emotional values that connect us all. And those values are learnedâ€” maybe it would be more accurate to say absorbedâ€” at home.
Those core values are the foundation for everything I have to say in this book. So let’s look a little more closely at a few of them, and consider how they are passed along.
Very near the top of the list, I would place the concept of trust. Taken in the very widest sense, trust is the belief that the world is a good place. Not a perfect place, as anyone can see, but a good placeâ€” and a place worth the trouble of trying to make better. If you want to function effectively in the worldâ€” not to mention stay in a good moodâ€” this is a very useful thing to believe!Â Trust in the world is inseparable from a trust in peopleâ€”a belief that human beings, however flawed we all are, are fundamentally well- intentioned. People want to do the right thing. Clearly, there are many pitfalls and temptations that lead people to do the wrong thing. But doing the wrong thing is a perversion, a betrayal of our true nature. Our true nature is to be fair and kind.Â Not everyone believes this, of course. Some people think that human beings are fundamentally badâ€”grasping, competitive, inclined to lie and cheat. Frankly, I feel sorry for people who see it that way. It must be difficult for them to get through the dayâ€” to maintain open friendships, to do business without constant scheming and suspicion, even to love.
The beliefâ€” the faithâ€” that people are basically good is one of the core values that allows us to feel at home in the world.
I was very fortunate in my upbringing. In our famously mobile society, my family was remarkably stable. The house I grew up inâ€” a very average, early- twentieth- century subdivision sort of house that my father had bought in 1958 for $31,500!â€” was two blocks from where my mother had grown up. My grandparents still lived there. The city of Omaha was filling in around us, and the neighborhood became a strange mix of rural and urban. Our street was actually a main artery going in and out of town, but our house was rather barn- like, with teardrop attic windows like those seen in The Amityville Horror. Just for the fun of it, we used to plant a few rows of corn in our small side yard.Â As soon as I proved that I was able to look both ways before crossing the street, I was allowed to walk by myself to visit my grandparents. The space between my parents’ and my grandparents’ houses was like a bubble or corridor of love. I got hugs at both ends of the journey. My grandmother was an archetype of a perhaps vanishing breed: a homemaker, and proud of it. She was always cooking, running errands, or doing projects around the house. When I appeared, she made me ice- cream cones with little candy surprises embedded in every scoop. My grandfather always wanted to know what I’d learned in school that day.Â On the walk back home, neighbors would wave or toot their horns.
Idyllic? Sure. And I am only too aware that not every child has the benefit of such a serene and supportive home environment. Those that don’t have a lot more ground to cover on the path of learning to trust the world.Â But the point I’d like to make here is this: The things that allowed me to feel safe and trusting as a kid had nothing to do with money or material advantages.Â It didn’t matter how big our house was; it mattered that there was love in it. It didn’t matter if our neighborhood was wealthy or otherwise; it mattered that neighbors talked to each other, looked out for one another. The kindnesses that allowed me to trust in people and in the basic goodness of the world could not be measured in dollars; they were paid for, rather, in hugs and ice- cream cones and help with homework.
They were kindnesses that every parent and every community should be able to shower on their children.
About the Author:
Peter Buffett is an Emmy Award-winning composer, producer and philanthropist. His tireless work with numerous non-profit organizations has made him into a well-known activist for social concerns. Previous human rights-driven music collaborations for Buffett include “Blood Into Gold” featuring Grammy-nominated recording artist Akon, which debuted at a special concert at the UN General Assembly. Buffett is the only man to have performed at Eve Ensler’s 10th Anniversary V-Day celebration, and is currently performing his “Life is What You Make It:Â A Concert & Conversation w/ Peter Buffett” series around the country. Buffett has launched his own social network community, peterbuffett.com/ning, to release new material to his exclusive network of fans on a monthly basis. Â His first book, Life Is What You Make It, is slated for release in April 2010 through Harmony Books. The book takes on themes of following passions over conventions, and how part of life’s journey can be found in the process of giving back. Life Is What You Make It is now available for pre-order at Random House.