Sunday, November 29, 2009

The choices we make

I find myself full of things I want to write about, so full that I can't quite decide where to start or what to say. I could, as I've often done in the past, choose to do nothing. That would be the procrastinator in me. Can't decide what to write about? Well, maybe it's time to dig out the mending or ironing projects, or maybe it would be a good time to clean a drawer or closet. That's often the only way any of those undesirable projects ever get done! But before I tackle that, I should probably relax and take a nap!

This time I am going to do it differently. I am going to make a deliberate choice to write about SOMEthing and get the process started. Bear with me as I ramble . . .

The world of the computer and Internet has added immeasurably to our lives. Besides giving procrastinators like me so many more diversions, it has opened my world - and I am sure yours as well - to a vast new appreciation of the world we live in. Most of what we see, hear or read calls attention to the differences among us. We live in climates that are hot/cold/mild, rainy/dry, stormy or calm. We live in a wide range of economic and political circumstances, speak different languages, attend different places of worship, or choose not to worship at all.

As I have matured, I have felt an overwhelming desire to seek those things that bring us together, and to minimize anything that causes divisions. It's not always an easy thing to do, but we do have some control, and we do make choices on a regular basis. We CAN choose to work toward common goals.

Here in the U.S. we are deep into the holiday season. Having just celebrated Thanksgiving, we quickly move forward into the busiest shopping season of the year. We aren't sure any more what to call it - are we shopping and decorating for "Christmas" or some other major religious holiday, or do we do it just because it is fun? My choice at this particular stage in my personal life is to keep the commercialism to a minimum, let everyone celebrate as they choose, and focus on the blessings of family and friends.

Our Thanksgiving holiday was special in many ways. We didn't really know until the day before just where we were going to be gathering, or even who was doing the cooking, but we knew we'd be together - at least those who were close enough and healthy enough to make the trip. Sharing the holiday with the deer hunting season has always been a factor for many families we know. This year a very special high school championship football game and the outbreak of the H1N1 virus was added to the mix for our family.

Many years ago, we made a choice to celebrate important holidays and family birthdays whenever it worked out for the majority of us to gather. Seldom does this happen right on the day - but no one really cares. What is important is the time spent together.

Nor does it matter what we eat, or whether we use the company plates or flatware. In fact, my personal choice leans toward keeping all of this as simple as possible so that no one is feeling burdened with the work of preparing meals or cleaning up afterward.

As for the holidays that lie ahead, I have some choices to make very soon. The surveys are already out showing just how much the average American is planning to spend on gifts, and the stores are begging for my attendance, trying to entice me with special deals that are too good to miss. Several years ago, I found a way to spend in a way that seemed a little more appealing. I no longer buy gifts for our grown children, nor for the older grandchildren. Instead the money goes toward college funds and helping families who have so much less than we do through various charitable programs around the world.

I have always sent a newsy family letter at this time of year, and love hearing from others who do the same. Last year I tried to cut the cost of all that paper and postage by changing to an email message. This year I am struggling because all of our "good" news seems somehow inappropriate when so many we know are dealing with major issues in their lives - unemployment, foreclosure, divorce, illness, deployment or death of a loved one.

Today I am making some choices about how to spend my time and money. I am also making choices specifically connected to what to write about. These are the easy ones. Still ahead, I want to make the best possible choices about how to live my life so that I can do my part to make this a better world. I want to make choices that will help our environment, help bring about peace, help those around me experience a higher quality of life. It has much less to do with where and how I spend my time and money than the amount of compassion that is in my heart, and especially the compassion I extend toward others.

We all make choices all the time. May wisdom and compassion guide us to make better ones as we move forward in our lives.

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