June 21st, summer solstice. I’m sitting in the yard, watching butterflies tumble by, listening to a robin singing out his little heart. The cats are curled up in the shade, the water by the pond is gurgling gently, a breeze is stirring the leaves, the air is warm. The lush green of trees and bushes blends seamlessly with the green of the lawn. Peonies and carnations are in full bloom. The tomato plants show the first signs of fruit and the lettuce is begging to be picked for tonight’s dinner. Life is bountiful.
Too often in our day to day life we forget this. We complain about too much to do, too little time to ourselves, too little choice. We feel coerced, pushed and pulled, and unfree. We forget how much of our lives are lived choicefully, even if it doesn’t always feel like it:
- Most of us have some choice over the work we do, the job we have. We often stay in jobs we don’t like for fear of the unknown or because this job is ‘the lesser of two evils’ in our mind. There are many of people who do not have that choice, we have to take any work — including selling their bodies — just in order to survive another day.
- Most of us have some choice over what and when we eat. We can respect our allergies and even dislikes, we can choose healthier foods over less healthy choices, we may even choose to grow our own food. For millions of people any food is a luxury on any given day. One meal is all they will have — and sometimes not even that.
- Most of us have some choice over some of our time. We can spend an hour a day watching TV or going to the gym. We can go to a workshop or watch the kids’ basketball game and dance recitals on a Sunday. For thousands of people there is no such thing as spare time. Every minute of the day is dedicated to survival, to finding and preparing food, staying safe, keeping the children safe — and there are no basketball games and dance recitals for the children.
I could go on with this list but I know that most of you know these things; and I don’t want to paint a picture of life being perfect in the western world because we all know it isn’t. We have our own problems and difficulties, our own struggles and pains to live with. But I think every once in a while it’s a good idea to consciously remember just how privileged we actually are to live in a country and a time where the average person has this much choice.
There comes a certain responsibility with this, too: a responsibility to take care of the rights and liberties of our own society and to support others in their fight for similar ones; a responsibility to take care of our planet and to hold our leaders to this responsibility, too; and maybe most of all, a responsibility to share some of our good fortune, be it in a word, a gesture, some support, or any other form. In the end we are the society in which we live. If we focus on the gifts we are given each and every day and decide to share some of them with others, that is the society we will be living in: abundant, supportive, rich in every way that matters.“This is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love: the more they give, the more they possess.” Rainer Maria Rilke