November 22, 2014

Choosing Your Culture

Puget Sound and Olympic peninsulaChoosing Your Culture: How Will We Live Our Lives?

An interesting thing happened yesterday when I was out running errands: I ran into culture. Then I made a conscious choice to choose my culture. Again.

It’s impossible to escape the current debates in our country over gun control. Frankly, I don’t think controlling guns will control violence, not as long as people think civil discourse is hate speech and we glorify football, the military, and gory ‘entertainment.’ Because it’s not that our culture is violent: it’s that we love that it is and choose it.

Worse, it’s become the first thing we think about when we’re just out there trying to live our quiet, loving lives.

I’ve lived in the same Seattle beach community for nearly 25 years. We’ve had our share of incidents here, but we’re as American as apple pie—whatever that means.

What should it mean? That, really, is the question.

So, I was running errands when I noticed a woman rush into the street to flag me down. In a quick glance I saw: she was worried, dressed for business, and obviously needed something. Bad enough to risk flagging down a complete stranger.

While all this registered I noticed something else: I wondered, briefly, if she was trying to scam me, if I’d pull over and get shot or carjacked.

“Really?” I said to myself. “What is your problem, Robyn?”

My problem is culture.

But I kept the doors locked and rolled the window down far enough to talk with her. “Do you need help?” I asked her.

She had an important appointment, had missed her bus, and needed a ride to the bus stop. My gut sense saw nothing wrong, so I offered her a ride. I changed the order of my errands and took her straight to the bus stop.

As we chatted on the short drive, she said how much she believed in god (interesting, since I don’t, and I’d had that conversation a lot lately). For proof she pointed to a few recent incidents in which she’d been provided for at the last minute, just like she had with me. She had two possible appointments that morning (I never asked for what) and trusted in god to get her to one of them. She’d overslept and missed the first one, and had just missed the bus that would take her to the second. Everyone she’d tried to flag down (all men, by the way) had completely ignored her. Then I’d pulled over.

I said, “Well, maybe god should buy you an alarm clock, so you don’t miss the bus.”

“But,” she said, undaunted. “You came along.”

Indeed. And we made it to the bus stop just in time, and off she went to her appointment.

Now is this a lesson in intuition? Well, I work as an intuitive, but no, it wasn’t, any more than I’ve learned to trust my intuition and I had no sense she was anything more than a ditz (who was TOO trusting). But even intuition can be wrong—my first reaction on seeing her in the street was to ignore her. Was that intuition at work?

No, it was fear. A choice of culture.

I chose my culture, again, in an instant yesterday when a hard choice was in front of me. It was the kind of decision we face every day: how do we choose to live?

The choices as I saw them: ignore her, call the police, stop and help. In that order. As I saw them, they saddened me. When did the right choice become the last one? When did we, as citizens of the planet, as Americans, abandon love?

This is what we need to discuss in our country: what is culture, what is choice, how do we choose, what do we want?

I think in the last few weeks we’ve made our choice, as citizens, as Americans. While the politicians and the media traded barbs over violence, the ordinary average people like us simply reached out and hugged grieving strangers, wrapped community and love around a town that had just lost children to violence, and spread that love as far and wide as we could.

Because love is our only choice.

Will it stick? Will we finally say ‘enough,’ and choose love? Will we insist on a culture that lives love, however hard that is at times?

I hope so, but I don’t know. I do know that love is spreading. I was already the naïve person who would stop and help a stranger, and people are always chiding me for that. Well, truth is, I’m proud of me, proud that despite all the crap out there, I still choose the simple things that love prompts me to do.

Will someone stick a gun in my face someday because of that? I don’t know. But if that stops me, and stops you, then we’re all lost already, and it won’t matter.

The world has more good people in it than bad people. It’s just not fashionable to feature us. I think we should change that.

How? By choosing our culture.

So far, we’ve let fear rule public discourse, enough that our natural instincts to help are nearly undone by it—as I almost ignored a stranger yesterday who needed a simple act of kindness.

I choose love. It’s hard, it’s scary sometimes, it’s no longer the norm. But it can be. We’ve all seen how love can lead the way.

What is as American as apple pie? The culture of peace, community, love.

Be trusting. Be wise. Love. It will make a difference. It has to.

 © 2012 Robyn M Fritz

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