I keep telling my kids this the last couple days.
The simple things: the clean water we drink, the peace we feel when we lay our heads to rest, the food we eat – these are luxuries.
But always, these ideas float over their heads.
They retreat to what they know: their friends, some perceived trauma at school, who said what in some video game whose name I barely know.
How do we convey this inexplicable gift we’re given to those who have only known privilege?
How do we repay this gift ourselves?
* * *
In a couple days, I’ll leave for Sonoma County, California.
Life will be excessive.
We’ll bottle wine from a small vineyard. We’ll sample libations from the pinnacle of brewing, distilling and viticulture.
And throughout it, despite enjoying it all, I will feel a profound sense of guilt.
Oh, you can categorize it as you wish.
Yeah, it’s probably only to make myself feel good. Yeah, I’m not doing enough. Yeah, I don’t know how the hell I got here.
Yeah, it’s sin in a world of suffering.
I vacillate between dedicating all I’ve got to “make the world a better place” and retreating to a state of being overwhelmed.
A place where I give everything; and a place where I feel I’ve got nothing to give.
I’m a god-damned yo-yo.
Iraq, Israel, Ebola, Ukraine – and today, what did I do? I programmed a tutorial for a Southwestern utility on how to pay your water bill online.
Saving the world? Hardly.
Feeding my own kids? Yeah.
But that’s about it.
* * *
And therein lies the dilemma.
How do we go about our daily lives – doing the things we do – amid a world where so much lies in chaos?
How do we rest our heads when dehydrated mothers are dragging their starving children down a rugged, desert mountain to complete uncertainty?
And, to put in bluntly, how do we help our own kids understand how obnoxious complaining about 30 minutes of math homework is in the context of all this?
Hell if I have the answers.
I reminded my children this morning; “You don’t come with an instruction manual. I’m flying by the seat of my pants. God knows if I’m ‘doing it right.’”
At least my son paused for a second when I threw that idea at him.
* * *
I have no sweet wrap ups where everything comes into context.
I just have questions.
And they’re really pretty basic.
What did I do to deserve this fortune?
And how close are we to having it all stripped away?
Many nights lately, the answers are so obscenely distant, that I’m at a loss of what to do.
So, tonight, I walked. It’s a way to burn off the energy that makes sleep impossible.
I rarely know where I’m going. But tonight I ended up at the Safeway in my neighborhood.
They had gladiolus there for $4. The flowers of funerals, I’m told.
I brought them home.
Put them in a vase. Somewhere where I would see them every morning and night until they die and we throw them away.
Their beauty brought me happiness, peace.
They let me forget for a second. For a minute.
A distraction, yes.
Movies, TV, music, radio, even flowers.
It seems that’s the name of the game.
Run away, run away …
I can’t find the checkpoint.
You articulated pretty much how I’ve been feeling lately. There is SO much need in the world. It is overwhelming and yes, there is guilt. Was it St. Augustine who said, to whom much is given, much is expected? But, putting it all in context… On of my favorite obscure books, the Quotidian mysteries, says God is in the little things. So the ability to pay the power bill online means that the employees families will be fed too, and the programs for the poor and elderly the power company sponsors will be funded. It also means that we can do what we can do in our little corners of the world to effect change and help. My salary allows me to care for my pets and help organizations that rescue abandoned and abused pets and that is how I can help.
The fact that you may feel guilty for your blessings means that you are aware of your gifts. That’s a good thing. Carry on.