As 2014 comes to an end, I feel an urge to slam the door and say, “Good riddance!”  It’s been a difficult year for many people, myself included, starting on Jan. 2, 2014 with the death of my mother, and quickly thereafter the death of a dear friend’s father, and then another dear friend’s father, and then another dear friend’s best friend… and well, that’s the way the year went.

And that was just on the personal level.  The world stage seemed to be a Shakespearean tragedy directed by Sam Peckinpah. Disease and war and natural disasters and racist killings and riots and attacks on the police and more war and planes going down and sexual crimes by people in high places and more war and more death and disaster…

During so many phone calls and coffee chats, all we could do was ask when this would end and wonder if the world hadn’t entered some cataclysmic phase that will only get worse.

lemmingsWell, maybe it will.  Certainly as a species we seem to have taken on the characteristics of the lemming, running headlong over the nearest cliff.

And yet… in the midst of the grief and worry and pain, I also found new friends and learned how to be a better friend. I visited new places and saw some marvelous things.  Today The Best Beloved and I celebrate 24 years of marriage — and if that’s not a miracle I don’t know what is! I am, in all ways, blessed beyond my deserving.

As I get older I realize I have little time for things that don’t truly nourish me, and no time at all for pointless arguments about things over which I have no control anyway.

What do I mean by that? I mean there are issues on the world stage that matter deeply to me–of course they do–such as racism, and the treatment of women, and our care of the planet and the creatures we share it with, and poverty, and … well, there are quite a few.  At the same time, ranting and finger-pointing and vilifying people seems counter-productive (more and more with every passing year).

What matters instead is the person in front of me, the thing that appears before me right now, that calls for my attention. How shall I not only be good, but be good for something, as Thoreau said?  I sometimes wonder what it is I’m good for. I admit it. My life is so small. But that’s my life. I don’t live on the world stage, nor would I be suited to such a role. (More than six people in a room and you’re likely to find me hiding behind the potted palm.) I live here, in this town, on this street. And so I must work with what I’ve been given. That’s what I believe each of us as asked to do: to live with as much goodness as we can precisely where we are. Kindness is a good religion, no matter what you call God.  If I recall correctly, the Dalai Lama said that.

In fact, I think if we all did that, the world would quickly be changed in positive ways.

And so that will be my New Year’s resolution: In 2015 I will try to focus on the work of being good within the sphere of my own influence, and not fall into the entropy of despair that can result from focusing on the things I cannot change.  Gee, where I have heard something similar before? Snort.

 

Serenity Prayer

 

6 Comments

  1. susan applewhaite on January 1, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Lovely, as always . maybe if I focus on what’s right in front of me I will feel less like chicken little shrieking into an empty wood.

    • Lauren B. Davis on January 1, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Thanks, Susan. Maybe we’ll change the world, one small act of kindness at a time.

  2. wendy Alden on January 2, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Second submission as there was a typo in the first one. Sorry.
    Happy New Year and Happy 25th year of marriage for 2015.
    I couldn’t agree more with your sentiment of “…live with as much goodness as we can precisely where we are.”
    Returning home on New Year’s Eve, I passed a man, Bill sitting in his electric wheelchair (a change in his life as of a year ago following a decline in health) with his beloved dog, Chopper. He’s a ‘fixture’ on the street outside a large transit hub in downtown Vancouver and begs for cash in order to buy meals for himself and his dog daily. In May of 2012, I arranged for a gift of having his dog groomed for free with a mobile pet grooming van. It was paid for by our Vancouver Humane Society at my request. I also made Bill a lunch and the event was filmed for our local news. It was just an idea which crossed my mind passing this man and his dog frequently. Chopper is a large dog with a very heavy long coat of fur and had run down the street, so I’d returned him with a leash attached to his collar to Bill. At that moment, I realized the dog needed a bath and probably hadn’t had one for a long, long time.
    Over the past 3 1/2 years, I’ve found out he lives in a social housing hotel in the downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Not the best place in the world, but it’s a roof over his head until he leaves this earth. His disability income isn’t enough to cover his rent payment and necessities including food. The result is that he begs almost daily for hours to collect enough money for his & Chopper’s dinner. Bill was born very near where my life began in East London, so has a bit of a British accent and even the British ‘way’ of being polite and well spoken. New Year’s Eve, I stopped to say hello and asked him if he needed a hot chocolate or a coffee? He declined and then I thought to ask him if I could buy him something from the nearby fast food outlet. Within 10 minutes, I gave him a Papa burger and a Cheeseburger (for Chopper) double-bagged to keep it warm as he was ‘rolling’ home to have his dinner. Politely he thanked me and wished me a Happy New Year and I said, “I hope the new year is a better one for you and Chopper.” Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. I was glad to be able to extend myself beyond ignoring another individual whose circumstances are beyond my understanding. It was a last gesture of kindness in my own life for 2014. I’m grateful for that opportunity. When I was having my own New Year’s dinner, I was hoping the hamburgers were still nice and warm for Bill & Chopper to enjoy at their table.

    • Lauren B. Davis on January 2, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      That’s great, Wendy, and exactly what I’m talking about. I’m sure your friend was grateful. Terrible that he can’t afford food on a regular basis.

  3. Vicki Weisfeld on January 4, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    An important thought to keep in our hearts while barraged by the voices beaming in from some strange alternative universe where intolerance and greed reign.

    • Lauren B. Davis on January 4, 2015 at 3:26 pm

      Thanks, Vicki. It is indeed a strange alternative universe.

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