We are the most unaware, unconcerned and uneducated as we, as a nation, have ever been. Americans actually brag about not reading the news, stating that “it’s depressing.”

The reality there is, they lack the comprehension to care or understand what is happening around the world and have deluded themselves into thinking that playing seven straight hours of a video game as an adult will somehow make them a better person. Many of us can’t even name all the states in this union.

As a nation, our work ethic and standards have never been lower. But we can change all that in five easy steps.

It may be a bit challenging at first. The worst of our offenders will most assuredly resist but we can rally to be the great nation we once were.  

Here’s how.

Just as the Israeli government requires its citizens to serve in the military (Israel Defense Forces) for a two to three year stint, we should demand that each American citizen must serve one year in five different professions. This would absolutely include anyone who receives welfare of any form. When every American works, we are enriched.

Elementary School Teacher

It starts here. Do you want to know why Johnny can’t read? It is not the teacher’s fault, though many parents would like to play that card.  

Parents are no longer reading to children at home, checking homework or demanding accountability. Instead, parents have turned on educators, denouncing what was once thought to be a partnership in the name of helping children. Parents also no longer accept responsibility for what their child does. If Johnny hit someone it is because someone else hit Johnny first. If Johnny didn’t turn in homework or is disrupting the class, it’s because Johnny’s teacher doesn’t know what she is doing and if Johnny is caught downloading inappropriate material on the school’s laptop well … that wasn’t Johnny. Uh, but we can see him on the videocam making obscene gestures.

What we need is for Johnny’s mom to work with other Johnnys for a full year to appreciate the value of working with her child, being punctual, teaching respect and obedience. And only then will we, as a nation, also learn how vastly underpaid our educators are.

Retail Clerk

Once upon a time, we spoke to our retail clerks. We chatted about weather and purchases and upcoming sales while the clerk made change – actual change.  

This would entail the counting of money. Problem. Clerk of 1983 receives a $20 bill on an $8.43 charge. The 1983 clerk springs into action, not only making proper change but ACTUAL EYE CONTACT as well. The experience is ended with … wait for it … “Please come back.”  

Wow.  

Problem. Clerk of 2013 is handed a $20 on an $8.43 bill but ... oh, wait … clerk is staring at her cell phone. OK, she’s back. She takes the bill and …s he must wait for the register to tell her what to do but there is a delay, an outage, a power surge of some sort. Clerk of 2013 is shut down. She does not know how to make change but that’s OK because she’s become distracted by her cell phone and mumbles something unintelligible.

Clerk of 2013 is not entirely to blame for this transaction because consumers of 2013 have trained her well as we also do not make eye contact and worse, speak on a cell phone while doing business with the clerk. Not only is this foolish as money is changing hands but it is also incredibly rude. By demanding that we all work this job, perhaps we will once again learn how to count, make eye contact and return to the most basic of social graces. (Seriously, we don’t need to hear you on the phone talking about your private business in public.)  

Obituary Writer

In the year of this job, respect for life, family and history would be restored. Each day, the most fascinating people would come into your life. As you detail the life of a Marine who crossed a battlefield or a nurse who saved lives, history comes to life. People fought for their country in an era when going to war meant no communication with family, no fast food, any comforts for untold years. Each day would offer another story of someone who served in Nixon’s cabinet or discovered a new strand of DNA. Yet in the very next column, a life only beginning is suddenly, tragically ended. Learning of a child who succumbed to cancer or a teenager killed in a car accident is sobering.

For the Y Generation that has coined the phrase: YOLO (You Only Live Once), new appreciation for life can be restored. Life isn’t a guarantee just because you want to have fun. Reading/writing obituaries is a humbling, beautiful experience.

Waitress

Texas is widely regarded as being one of the worst places to wait tables. When waiters make $4/hour, they rely on tips to survive! If you do not intend of giving 20 percent, do not go out. If you are the kind of person who likes to order a plate of food, eat half and then return it claiming the order is not right, this is called stealing. You are a food thief and everyone loses – the restaurant, your waiter, the world. Yes, the world. Now that half-eaten, unpaid for plate of food has to be thrown out.

Only when each American works in the food industry will they appreciate how to treat other human beings, pay for what they order and tip properly. This job will also teach the importance of how to order. Whether a sit down or carry-out, please know what you want. No wait staff is more savvy to this than the donut store clerk, who has been on her feet since 4:30 a.m. It is now 8:30 a.m. and the 17th kid of the morning, face and fingers pressed to the glass, can’t decide between sprinkles on white frosting or sprinkles on pink frosted donuts.

While the parent allows a line to build behind the indecisive child, donut girl is silently plotting your death. Please know what you want to order, pay, step aside and don’t forget to tip!

Police Officer

In some capacity, each American citizen must work with the police department to fully understand the demands and importance of this job. Everyone hates the Po Po until they need help. From directing traffic to responding to 911 calls, finding stolen goods to taking bad guys off the streets, we cannot appreciate what they do until we walk in their teflon vests for a year.

“OK, SallyMae, we’re going to need for you to walk into that crack house, find and make an arrest on a 45 year old, 240 pound, white caucasian male hopped up on drugs as he has been assaulting women and shows no signs of stopping.”

“But I don’t want to go in there!  I just want to stay home and watch ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians.’ That’s real life. They make millions of dollars because they have no known talent and constantly scream at each other for my entertainment.”

“We don’t want you to have to go in there either, Sally Mae. But it’s come to our attention that you’re an idiot and need a reality check. So, we’re going to need for you to pull your head out of your $800 Gucci handbag, even though you only make minimum wage, stop pretending like you can live like a rock star, go in there and get your man. This is real life now, Sally Mae, where real people do actual hard, sometimes life-threatening jobs for only a fraction of the money your Kardashian clan makes. But someone has to do it, Sally Mae.  Someone has to do it.”

Imagine a world in which we all made eye contact, knew how to make change, pay for what we ordered and took responsibility for all our actions.

Imagine a world where we worshipped the real heroes and celebrities were valued just for their entertainment.

Imagine that!

Now residing in “the nicest city in Texas,” Alexandra Allred is the author of numerous books, including White Trash, Damaged Goods and the Allie Lindell series. Visit her website, www.alexandratheauthor, or Twitter @alexandraallred but always check out her column the WDL as she ponders all things Waxahachie and beyond its borders.