People come in many flavors. Like the varied foods at a smorgasbord, some are sweet while others are sour. Next to the hard and tough we find tender ones too. The great thing about a buffet is that we can pick and choose what we like, and stay away from what doesn’t suit us. Individual freedom is great that way.
We can pick our friends, but in daily life it’s not quite as easy to avoid the sour pickles or the hot peppers should we find them too intense for our liking. These are the sort of times we’re grateful to believe in a Creator, assuming that we do, because it reminds us that we are all God’s children. It’s easier to work the hot and sour people into the mix when we know that God loves us all regardless of our personal traits. It helps to remember too that we don’t have to like everyone, we just have to give them the freedom to be.
This simple rule of thumb comes in particularly handy when we are faced with the tension between people of heart and people of mind, those who come from love and those who operate from power. It’s particularly tough when we find ourselves in environments where the latter seem to outnumber the former five to one. It happens—in school, at work, in church, in sports, even in our neighborhoods.
On the one hand we have the common folk, hard-working and earnest, kind of heart and generous of spirit. On the other, we find the self-styled social standard, such as the artsy literati of New York and the surgically perfected “glitterati” of Hollywood. Or, as a friend of mine puts it, there are the humble people and then there are the beautiful people.
These two groups represent an age-old choice posed to every individual throughout history: What will it be, substance or surface? Which offers the greatest treasure life can offer: The fine gold dust mixed into the dirt road of a humble life of love and service, or the baubles and bangles of costume jewels that line the path of the self-important? Most are fooled by colorful glass, but a few know real gold when they see it.
The divide between the humble and showy, the deep and superficial, the givers and takers is not based on economic status or social standing. It is a measure of character and wisdom. Thus every corporation, organization, civic group, church, or small town has its corollaries.
Wherever we go, human nature is what it is. Who doesn’t know someone at the office who takes credit for other people’s work, or someone in their church or synagogue who hogs the limelight to garner personal accolades? Who hasn’t marveled at the near-caricature characters in real-life small-town leadership positions? No wonder both Charles Dickens and Mark Twain found ample material for their stories on their own sides of the Pond.
Vanity and pride are integral drivers of human action, and tend to relegate kindness and compassion to the back seat. Those who are driven to act on their baser instincts, along with those who reach for a higher standard, all wake up each day with a choice. 365 times a year life presents us all with a new day—a blank slate if we wish it to be, if we accept the gift and take the opportunity to re-prioritize and start fresh. It is a chance to not only be a better person but to create a better life for ourselves, our loved ones, and even the strangers we meet along the way.
Each day is a choice between the unimportant and what really matters, between wasting a day or living a life of significance, between self-service and serving others. It’s our choice, yours and mine. What will you do with today?
© 2012 Ilona Goin. All rights reserved.