Sunday, December 28, 2014

Choices

TS Elliot wrote in the Wasteland,   
“What shall I do now? What shall I do?   
I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street   
With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?   
What shall we ever do?”
This is the dilemma we have every moment—What shall I do (and how?). Supposedly a teacher makes 1500 educational decisions every day.

A driver can make 250 conscious decisions every mile.

I’m tired just thinking about it.

I tried to make conscious decisions as I went shopping yesterday. At the grocery store there was a white woman with a little black boy. Her love for the boy was obvious as she kissed and hugged him. He seemed about three and she held him in one arm, with a satchel of groceries in the other hand. She was behind me in line. I told her she could go in front of me. At first she politely hesitated, but then she accepted. I was aware that my decision made her life a little easier. I was also aware how my action made me feel so good.

Then the cashier asked if I was having a good day and I said, “yes. How has your day been.” I looked him in the eye and cared for that moment who he was and how he was feeling. Again I felt good.

It was not my intention in doing either of these “mitzvahs” to feel good. I was still recovering from someone butting in front of me a week ago. I didn’t say anything to them.  I just felt pushed aside for a week.

At Costco, they check your membership card as you enter. For those, like myself, who frequent the warehouse store, most of the checkers just let you by. A new checker was there, and asked for my card. I decided to just walk by, with the defiance that Michael Brown may have felt when the cop asked him to get off the street.

The checker yelled after me, “may I see your card, please.” But I just kept walking. And then I felt bad the rest of the day.

That was yesterday. Today I made another trip to another grocery. I played a little game where I’d focus my awareness and then grade myself for how well I did the job. For example, after “checking out” I decided that I didn’t have enough groceries to use a cart to to carry them to my car. I first thought I would just leave it in front of the store as people often do. Then I decided to return it to the other carts. I had a minute pang of guilt wondering if I was costing anyone a job, but I proceeded anyway. When I pushed the cart into the other carts I surprised myself that I had not done it very gently. I started feeling bad for how I had treated the cart. Why was I angry at it? I gave myself a “B-.”

You might think I’m being very rough on myself. Actually I'm just trying to see the effect of my actions.

My father always complained that I did the wrong things. So I’m thinking...could I do the right thing if I really tried. I don’t mean almost the right thing...but really really the right thing. Could I return a grocery cart to its resting place as if it was a super thin egg shell? Could I set a tea bowl on a table so softly that I wouldn't wake it up?

Let’s see how I do tomorrow.

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