Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Expanding what we Consider

So many things to chat about. Some trivial, others not. ...a new baseball season, earthquakes, Cat's limp leg and all the new bills from yesterday's visit with the vet, me getting a new job (not 100% until next week), this week's House episode (shock)...

I keep coming back to a conversation I had yesterday at dinner. A man sat across the table from me at dinner (at a local meal site) and explained that despite his (serious respiratory) health problems, despite his homelessness, and despite the mistakes he made in ruining his almost 30-year-long marriage, he recognizes that there are people in this world who "have it worse" than he. This, he explained, inspires him to spend his days trying "impact people, in a good way."

He wasn't lying or placating me. He said it like it was the obvious thing to do. I can only think...what beautiful proof that we are not destined to be like children and can choose to change the way we interact with the people in our lives. This man destroyed his marriage and his family, and from a purely material perspective, has nothing. But since he had the courage to admit it and sees himself as having something to give, he lives a better life.

I don't mean to minimize the destitution of his homelessness. If anything, his homelessness would make him justified, if he were only concerned about his own situation and his own suffering. In my mind, it has always made more sense to expect that not being homeless (and having support from friends that treat you with love, or having health insurance) would make it easier to consider that others "have it worse." And yet, repeatedly this year, I've seen this expectation of mine flipped on its head. So, what makes the difference for this man? What makes him take others into account, instead of only his own situation? I think that's one of those no-easy-answer answers. And I'm totally fine with that.