I have been a member of a community band for more than 25 years. Over the years, the band has lost members, gained members, faced financial trials, and survived the retirement of our founder and music director. The band’s survival is largely attributable to a core of relatively few diehard members.
In addition to the above challenges, a few years ago we lost our rehearsal space at a community center and relocated further north. At the same time, I moved south. As a result, my commute time to rehearsal jumped from 20 minutes each way to 45 minutes each way, leaving me with a 1½- hour commute for 1¾ hours of playing – an uninviting ratio!
We rehearse once a week, and every week – especially in the winter – I complain to my wife about the dreaded commute and wonder if it’s worth it. Why not, she always says, join our local community band, which rehearses only five minutes away?
The answer to her question, I’ve come to believe, is loyalty. I’ve been with the band through good and bad times, and to quit now for another band seems like disloyalty and a betrayal.
I believe loyalty is one of our country’s bedrock social values. Loyalty is the glue that keeps families, communities, and societies together. Loyalty builds trust and deepens and strengthens relationships. And, it gives us a sense of belonging.
We can have our arguments and differences over a wide range of issues, but when the dust settles, we realize we’re all in it together, regardless of outcomes.
For values to be strengthened and sustained over time, they must be reflected in all social interactions. But when I contemplate the dominant values in our society today, I sense a weakening of loyalty and the rise of “me first.” A “me first” person is loyal to their own narrow interests and sees no value in a bigger picture.
The most evident example of this trend is found in the workplace. I can remember when the Japanese concept of ‘employee-for-life’ was heralded as the key to the dominating success of such companies as Honda, Toyota, Nikon, and Sony. Today, it sometimes seems that neither companies nor employees are loyal to one another, due to such factors as technology, outsourcing, downsizing, and automation.
When I was in the workplace and reviewing résumés, an applicant listing many previous jobs threw up a red flag (Why can’t this person hold a job?). Today, I’m told, a candidate with a long tenure with one employer is looked at with suspicion (Is this person such a mediocre performer that they can’t find another job?).
Values shape attitudes and attitudes shape behavior. We spend an enormous amount of our lives at work. If loyalty is a fundamental and important social value, it should be reflected in the workplace. Otherwise, over time, it loses its value.
And so, in the spirit of loyalty, and despite traffic, weather, darkness, and distance, I continue to trudge north every Thursday for rehearsal – and complain about it!