At lunch last week, a couple sat to my right.

We did not know each other, but, as sometimes happens when you sit at the counter or bar, a conversation got started.

I’m not exactly sure how it came up, but the woman began telling me a story. The exact details escape me, but the gist of it follows.

The story was about a tribe of people and how the elder passed down the torch to the leader in waiting. A year later, when the two were talking, the new chieftain asked; “But how do I know if I’m doing a good job leading our people?"

Looking at him, the elder said; “You need only to ask yourself three questions.”

He then proceeded; “Are your people fed? Do you take good care of your elderly? Are your women afraid?”

This struck me as profound. The chief now had a measurement that was worthy.

Our society fails miserably at all three. My new counter friend asked if I knew that “42 percent of American workers make less than $15 per hour?” With a family of four, how can one live on that? I understand that economics drive wages and “reality is the reality.” But, how can we give tax breaks to our corporations and the richest Americans when 42 percent of our workforce is struggling to make ends meet? I am not preaching for a socialist society, but there must be some collective improvement if we are ever to be able to answer “yes” to question 1.

Do we take care of our elderly? She didn’t have to cite statistics; look around, what does your gut say? It tells us we fail our elderly in every sense; sticking them away, not giving them any sense of family belonging, and giving them up as useless instead of, as in the story, feeding off the wisdom of our elders, involving them in the solutions to problems and teaching our children.

Are the women afraid? That was the most interesting question. A society, where, for Valentine’s Day, radio ads played urging listeners to buy the beloved women in their life a “cat’s claw” key ring. It’s worn like a brass knuckle with sharp spikes that protect you when walking to your car, or running, etc. You don’t need statistics to understand that women in our country do not feel safe; you only need to ask them.

Circling back to the three questions; how would it feel to live in a community, village or country where these values trumped everything? What would it feel like to be ruled by love, and not by fear? What would it feel like to have kindness leading the way, always?

If it could start organically, perhaps it would create some power. It needs to start with our own core family values which are then modeled for our children. It would then spread to our community to be judged by all citizens.

The reality is we are a secular society; no amount of wanting and wishing will change that today. But, what about tomorrow? Can we change it for the next generation, can we look at what success really is and let our children know that it is not OK for people to be hungry; it is not OK for the elderly to be cast aside, ignored and not revered; it is not OK for women to be afraid or to live under different standards than their male counterparts.

Any ideas how to start a movement? How about sending me an email with a story of kindness that can be anonymously shared in the weeks ahead? Can we create something bigger than ourselves and say “no” to bullies while creating a sense of belonging; something sorely missing in our society.

While the latest school shooting horrifies us, sending us to soapboxes railing out about needing more gun control and more emphasis on mental health, we could also concentrate on the root of the problem.

It comes down to the three questions.

If we can answer “yes” to them, we will be a society that honors its people and gives all a sense of belonging. If the shooter felt any sense of being part of something bigger than himself, things might have been different, and 17 lives not wastefully lost.

“To blame the poor for subsisting on welfare has no justice unless we are also willing to judge every rich member of society by how productive he or she is. Taken individual by individual, it is likely that there’s more idleness and abuse of government favors among the economically privileged than among the ranks of the disadvantaged.”

— Norman Mailer, writer (1923-2007)