By Louis Avallone
With dozens of floats and marching bands, in Mardi Gras parades throughout Shreveport and Bossier City, there’s nearly 2 million beads – over $100,000 worth of beads, plastic drink cups, stuffed animals, and other trinkets – that get tossed to nearly 400,000 parade-goers during Mardi Gras season. For many, shouting out, “Throw me something, Mister,” is all that is needed to soon have all of the iconic accouterments of the season – whether the countless beads worn around your neck or the many commemorative doubloons. Indeed, during Mardi Gras, every man is a king and every woman a queen.
But as you all may well know, the prosperity of one’s “kingdom” during a Mardi Gras Parade is akin to the cardinal rule of real estate, “location, location, location”. So, when my family and I positioned ourselves near a “no throw area” of the parade, we learned this valuable lesson first hand. You see, there was this sign that said, “No Throw Area” at the Stoner Avenue bridge over Clyde Fant Parkway. And even though we were standing only a mere 2-3 feet from fellow parade-goers being showered with throws, in the “land of plenty”, the land behind the “No Throw Area” sign was a desolate, barren wasteland, where many folks waited and wondered why there were no throws for them.
But if you paid attention, and saw the sign, you understood, and moved. Like others, my family simply moved a few feet north, until we had safely arrived in the “land of plenty”, on the other side of the “No Throw Area” sign. But many in the area still didn’t see the sign, and with each passing float, you could see their dashed excitement, and frustration, as they looked longingly upon the float riders, as if to say, “What about me?”
I got to thinking about that, and about how sometimes we can all find ourselves in the “No Throw Area” in this parade we call life. I wondered why everyone didn’t move from the “No Throw Area” of the parade, and then I remembered reading that Ray Croc, the founder of McDonald’s, once said that the two (2) most important requirements for major success are: first, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it. A few folks did something about it, when they found themselves in the “No Throw Area” of the parade, and just moved, to be in the right place at the right time.
But far more folks didn’t move at all. Maybe they didn’t see the sign, or felt that they couldn’t improve their position along the parade route. That certainly would be consistent with the sense of pessimism coming out of Washington these days; about how our position along the “parade route” of life is fixed, and that only the “lucky” receive the throws, while government is needed to right the wrongs, and redistribute the throws themselves, and making sure that all parade-goers contribute their fair share.
But more often than not, receiving throws in life is not about luck, but about choices.
For example, for young people, if you don’t want to be in the “no throw area” of life, then stay in school because a high school graduate, over their lifetime, generally earns twice as much as those who drop out. Additionally, male high school dropouts are 68-times more likely to go to jail, than do men who have a 4-year college education – definitely a “no throw area” there.
Another example, if you want to keep out of the “no throw area” of life: Don’t become an unwed, teenage mother. Regardless of right or wrong, the realities are sobering: Only 50% of teenage mothers graduate from high school or receive their GED. They are 10 times more likely to live in poverty, as nearly 80% end up on welfare. Their children are more likely to be incarcerated and less likely to finish high school themselves, and the cycle just keeps spinning – definitely a “no throw area” here too.
But in addition to the social benefits, if the large number of dropouts completed their high school education, it is estimated that the federal government would save as much as $1 trillion over a decade. These young people would be less likely to rely on government healthcare and welfare going forward, and less likely to be incarcerated. And because of the increased earning potential with a high school diploma, most will also contribute more in tax revenues, over a lifetime. Isn’t this where we really want our next generation to be?
So, back to the parade route along Clyde Fant Parkway: You see, those fellow parade-goers, on the better side of the “no throw area” sign, were not “lucky”, nor did they have a moral obligation to share their better position along the parade route with me and my family. They planned ahead where they wanted to be, and then got to the parade route early, and waited (and waited and waited). We didn’t.
And no, for you liberals reading this, we don’t need a government program to fix it, nor do we need to disparage those whose position along the parade route was better than ours. We have the opportunity to do it all differently next year – and we will. Now, throw me something, mister…I’m staying in the “Throw Area” this time.