Sunday, September 12, 2010

Just an Ordinary Day

Like any good anarchist soccer mom, I spent September 11, 2010 at the soccer fields, watching my three sons, in their brightly colored polyester jerseys and shiny black shorts, score goals. This ninth anniversary of that innocence-shattering event passed almost unnoticed, on purpose. By enjoying a simple September Saturday, I smugly told myself that I was living proof the terrorists did not win.

But I’m not too sure that we won either. Nine years later, America is in a world of trouble. Scandals—from Wall Street to Main Street—have plagued the financial engines that drive our economy. Our elected leaders engage in seemingly endless polemics that solve exactly nothing. We have extricated ourselves from one foreign engagement only to find our troops fighting the same war that we declared won in Afghanistan.

And people can’t even be nice to each other.

I can’t solve the housing crisis. I can’t fix the economy. You don’t even WANT to talk to me about healthcare (I am the woman who politely declined an epidural during childbirth because it was “too expensive”). But I can offer five simple suggestions to win the war at home.

1)      Buy local, especially when it comes to food. It’s simple, it’s inexpensive, and it’s good for you! will deliver fresh organic produce right to your door.
2)      Get involved in your community. I know you don’t have time for it. Neither do I. But if it weren’t for volunteers in our kids’ classrooms, or people who visit homebound seniors and run food banks, or any number of cheerful, enthusiastic volunteers, our world would be a much more miserable and lonely place. Life is about community.
3)      Quit cutting people off in traffic. I mean, really. Just knock it off! Even better, try riding your bike or carpooling to work. We all can use a dose of exercise endorphins once in a while!
4)      Save, save, save. Don’t have enough money for something you want? Then save up for it. We are so used to instant gratification that we have forgotten how much more things mean when we work for them. Need a retail therapy fix? You’ll be amazed at how far $10 can go at a thrift store.
5)      Be mindful, all the time, of how much you have to be grateful for. Start with the little things, if you have to—a breath of fresh air, a ray of autumn sunshine, a shiny penny in the parking lot. When you fall on your face and skin your knee, be grateful you didn’t break your nose. And always thank the people in your life who make a difference.
When things are especially rough for me, I like to think of life as a Monopoly game. I take my good and bad Chance cards as they come, always keeping the larger game in mind. And when I land on Free Parking, I treat myself to an ice-cream cone. Let’s face it, folks: the power of positive thinking is real. 
No, it’s not going to put checks in your mailbox (okay, I admit that making fun of The Secret is a secret hobby of mine). 
But “laughing wild amidst severest woe” is our real secret weapon against people who think they can change the world through death and destruction. The difference between America’s potential and the terrorists’ vision for us can be summed up in a single phrase from the German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein: “Die Welt des Gl├╝cklichen ist eine andere als die des Ungl├╝cklichen.” (The world of the happy is quite different from that of the unhappy). I don't know about you, but given the choice, I prefer to live in the world of the happy.
P.S.   September 11, 2001
Some say that Christ returned to earth that day,
Caught a commuter flight in Portland, Maine,
Passed through the gate unrecognized in Boston
And boarded the doomed plane.

As strangers sought to maim and harm and kill
In Allah’s name, Christ turned to them and said,
“Father, forgive; they know not what they do.”
Then turned to calm the dead.

He will not raise the son whose father weeps,
The wife whose husband’s empty arms will ache
He will not save the child, but holds her still
As the world around her breaks.

Not trailing clouds of glory, as we thought
But bringing quiet peace with just a touch
When justice can’t be served, when god is dead
At least we have this much.

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