Sunday, December 19, 2010

a right thing

the other day I had a conversation with a friend about doing the right thing.
already I must challenge this: is there ever just one "right" thing? perhaps I should change this to doing a right thing.
it just doesn't sound the same.
but this is the concept:
we go through life making decisions right and left. at most every juncture, we can choose this or that, a banana or an apple, to say yes or to say no, to nap or to go for a bike ride. more subtly, we can choose to be pleasant or rude, to be welcoming or abrupt, to be open or rigid. our entire persona, our presentation to the world, is based on conscious and subconscious decisions.
what child in our privileged society hasn't opened the refrigerator door and stood there, confounded by the almost overwhelming choice confronting him or her? and this choice is simply one of food, one of daily encounter and little import.
of greater significance are the decisions we make about how we wish to be in the world. will we contribute, or will we float? will we give, or will we take? will we strive to rise above the milieu, or will we settle for becoming an indeterminate part of the teeming mass?

many of us are either raised to be, or choose to become, one who is focused upon fulfilling his or her own needs and desires regardless of the cost to others. others give selflessly, negating their own needs and desires. and a great many of us fall somewhere in between, recognizing the impact of our decisions upon society ~ and the world ~ as a whole.
this is where the concept of doing a right thing enters.
it's impossible to exist upon this earth without creating some level of impact. we impact the physical earth, we impact each other. we are all connected at some level, and my choices ultimately impact the availability of resources for, the opportunities available for, and even the atmosphere surrounding, others who either walk beside me or follow in my wake.
it's difficult to use the utilitarian concept of the right thing being that which creates the greatest good for the greatest number to base each of our decisions upon. I, personally, can't always extrapolate and think that big. and so many of our decisions are mundane and meaningless when placed in this model. if I take I-15 versus I-80, will more benefit? if I buy two cantaloupes instead of one will someone have to do without? if I buy gas from this station instead of that am I promoting one company over another with possible negative consequences to the environment?
I can't go there.
instead, I operate with a more microcosmic view: how can I touch one person's life for the better? what can I do to be authentically me, to live life in an honest manner? how can I promote sincerity and kindness? how can I be an influence for good?

there is rarely a single right thing. there is, more frequently, a collection of authentic, well-intentioned actions that will move one (or the world) in a healthy direction. we can't always know what these responses and actions are until we've experimented, and often we don't know what a right thing was until after we've done it.
but there's not a much more fulfilling thing in life than to make a movement, take action, do something, and later come to understand that it was the exact right thing at the right time, and that it had a beautiful impact on another human being.

so I guess I'll just keep moving forward, trying to do right things as much as possible. trying to impact the world for good. touching lives here and there, acknowledging others, working a bit here and there on my carbon footprint. smiling at strangers, taking in my neighbor's garbage can on pickup day. hugging my kids, telling them I love them, teaching them to be brave and real. riding my bike when I can, smiling and waving at everyone I pass, working to pull each one of us a little more tightly into the interwoven collection of humans that together form a small piece of this beautiful, benevolent universe.


Rose said...

I love this. Thank you So much!!!

susan said...

oh, thank you! love to you, me