luck is what you make of it, says the teacher.

I’m working very hard to practice meditation daily.  The good thing about being incredibly busy is that it forces me to prioritize.  Where I once was lax about meditation (who needs to make it a priority when there are all of these HOURS I can squeeze it into?) or exercise (hey, there’ll be time tomorrow, I don’t need to push it to the front of the agenda) or spending time with the kids (we’re around each other ALL THE TIME, why be intentional?) when time becomes scant, every second gets doled out like it is made of gold.  Here are the minutes for the kids, for exercise, for meditation, here are these precious minutes and I must let them linger on my tongue like fine wine.  Here they are.  These ones.

In my World Lit class we somehow wandered off on a rabbit trail, talking about what makes a person “lucky” or “privileged” or “the right person for the right time.”  My teacher said that luck is what you make of it.  Luck, she said, is ultimately how you choose to be aware of and take advantage of your experiences.  Everyone may walk by the same dollar on the street, what makes someone “lucky” is being aware of it.  Everyone may talk to the same business man at a party, but what makes the investor “lucky” is cultivating that relationship.  Sometimes even the worst experiences may be “lucky” if you are the sort of person who makes yourself lucky.  A bad accident may lead to an early stage cancer being caught, for instance.  Unemployment may let you write that novel.  Luck, then, is a state of being in the same way that awareness is.  Luck is a choice in the sense that we all label or own experiences, we can label ourselves as lucky if we view ourselves in a positive light.

I am choosing to focus on awareness and cultivate it in myself.  I am choosing to label my experiences as fortunate.  I am choosing to cultivate relationships.

Sometimes bad things happen, but I choose not to label my life as “bad.”

The past few days I’ve been slammed with being busy, but the funny thing is that in all of that I feel things have gone better than they’ve gone in a long time.  I’ve been deliberate about taking control and not resenting the things I have to sacrifice in return.  Little things, like groceries coming under budget, pile up and it feels like mounds of blessings amidst the insanity.  It’s strange, how being deliberate about being in charge of your life can bend something from feeling like a curse to being a blessing.  It’s like the difference between choosing to run a marathon and being chased by a murderer in the night.  But of them are about being in a race, but only one of them feels like a death sentence.

But our entire life is like that- we all have to go through more or less the same motions and emotions.

But how do we attribute them?  What label do we paste on everything that happens around us?  Do we choose to be lucky?  Do we cultivate the behaviors of luckiness, the awareness and relationships and attitude?

Or do we treat every single challenge as if it is a murderer bursting into our home, and constantly cover our eyes and wail about our unluckiness as we walk right by the twenty dollar bill in the gutter?

I’ve written a note to myself that I have to look at every now and then to remind me of the choices I want to make.  It says, “this is the life you are living.  You are not passive.  It doesn’t happen to you, you happen to everyone else.”

There was a time I allowed myself to feel like a victim.  I gained 50 pounds and moved across the country and did my fair share of wailing, and it really did feel like everything I cared about was wrenched out of my arms.  That’s what happens when you would rather be backed into a brick wall than listen to what the spirit is saying to you.  That’s not my life anymore.  I could be supplicant and pray and cry and get all legalistic and feel owed a better life, but what would change?  I’d become more of a jerk and I’d still have everything wrenched away from me routinely while the universe worked on getting my attention.

So it goes.

Hi-ho.

Or, I can choose to be lucky.  I can be open and aware and understanding, and cultivate the now-barren places in my life in expectation of finding seeds.  I find, as I am more aware, that seeds are small but all around me.  My life just needs time right now.

Time that I can treasure to the second, and dole out carefully.  Time I can choose to be aware of.  Time that I am not a victim of.

I’m lucky, guys.  I’m lucky.

 

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‘Tis better to give

Inspired by comments on Angry African‘s latest post.

Why do people give to charity?  I’ve heard a lot of excuses.  A lot of rich people say that they feel an obligation to the society that allowed them to succeed and gain wealth- which may very well be true.  I’m sure the tax breaks and the status don’t hurt, either.  Poorer people give out of a recognition that there are those even more desperate.  Christian’s give because they feel it is their life calling. There is also belief in Karma- that all we give away is returned to us.  So some people give because they wish to receive, or they give because they already have received.  There are those who give when a life experience like a loved one being diagnosed with cancer brings to the forefront of their mind the need to establish foundations for those in need.

And then there are simply those who feel that being charitable should be a way of life.  Those who are motivated deeply by compassion for their fellow humankind.

Then there are those who make excuses.  There are those who say that it’s too hard to know where your money is going, and they don’t have the time to properly research.  There are those who say that by giving charitably you are taking away the impoverished man’s need to learn to care for himself.  There are those who say, “why delay the inevitable?  Allow nature to take it’s course.”  There are those who say that to be charitable is a calling- one they haven’t heard.  Better to leave the good deeds to those who are summoned for it.  There are those who say that charity is simply medicine for the conscience of the complicit, and not necessary for themselves.  There are those who say they don’t have enough time, enough money, enough passion.

Let God judge their hearts.

The ones who bother me the most are the ones who blame the charities.  The ones who talk about it being a bandaid on a deep bleed.  Why feed a child who will just starve later?  Why give clothes to someone who will always be jobless?  Why give medicine to the starving, the impoverished, the ones who will never do anything to better themselves?  Why save the unsalvable?

The basic premise of this sort of argument is that there is something inherintly unworthy about one class of people, but more worthy about another.  So why save the starving African orphans, who will likely always be impoverished and in need, instead of offering job training to poor people in one’s own country?  Well…  There are a few reasons.  The first is this:

  1. First I will acknowledge the fact that there are some nations where the problems of poverty and governmental corruption are so intertwined that it seems impossible to do anything to better the situations of the actual people involved.  I know that Mexico is like this- one can do very, very little to actually improve the lots of the poor.  All one really can do is give a little, year to year, day to day, and hope that it keeps them from dying.  Which is a tragedy.  It’s not the old axiom of “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever”- they know how to fish, their governments just steal their fish.  So the question I ask in this situation is:  will you allow the corruption in the system to kill these people- or will you do as much as you can?
  2. I understand the reasoning- no matter how much money is thrown at some problems, they will persist.  So why even try?  Why not give money to a separate cause that has some greater hope of being eventually effective?  Well, it goes like this:  People in our country have options.  They have a government that has their back.  They can find someone to set up a nonprofit organization in their favor, they can apply for grants.  How is a starving African AIDS orphan going to do that?   Yes- I realize that people in my own country can only get that help if someone is willing to help them, and it may as well be me- but I tend to gravitate towards being sympathetic to the most urgent needs.  If the governments of some people will not stand for them, then someone else has to.  It might as well be you and I.

Ultimately there are a lot of ways to help.  If you want to be sure that all of your money goes towards helping someone who wants to help themselves, there’s always Kiva, which allows you to give a “micro loan” to someone who is trying to start a business.  A friend of mine gave $300 to a woman who wanted to start selling organic peanut butter, because he liked peanut butter- and it was a great experience.  There’s also the Heifer Project, another organization geared towards finding more long-term solutions to short-term problems.  I find that a lot of people complain about charity without actually informing themselves about what is out there and what they can really do.

So let me tell you:

YOU CAN DO A LOT- AN AWFUL LOT.