Do the Right Thing

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Life is all about choices. We make them all of the time. Hindsight has a way of either congratulating us on being right or demonstrating that we all make mistakes. Some of the things that we decide to do or not do matter little while others have enormous impacts on our happiness and security and maybe even whether we live or die. Most of the anxiety that we experience is drawn from a deep seated fear of being wrong in our choices. Most of the jealousy we feel comes from wondering why some people seem to draw the golden ticket while we pick losers. Our greatest happiness is sometimes based on little more than emotion but we know that overall how we view ourselves is the culmination of the thousands of choices we have made. 

Our personalities and experiences often contribute to our methods for choosing this or that. I have to admit to being a bit impulsive. I generally find the most joy in doing things on the spur of the moment. I am guided more by gut feelings and emotions than rational studies. I chose my college only because I sensed that it was a good fit for me, and it was. I fell in love with my husband because being around him always made me happy, and still does after 52 years. I picked my jobs and the places where I worked because they seemed to fit with who I am as a person, and it turned out well. I found my homes by looking around the neighborhood and listening for the laughter and kinship, an I was right. Getting “the feels” has more often than not been my guiding light.

I suppose I have been somewhat lucky because I linked myself with a lifetime partner who does the research and keeps the books. I suspect that I might have been a mess without his rational touch to keep me grounded. He and I are both generous people but where I would give someone in need my last dime he is more inclined to suggest a more reasonable proportion for helping. I’ve learned that we require all of the different ways of thinking and doing to keep our society moving along nicely. Too much of anything is never a good idea. 

Politics represent one of the most difficult choices that we make. Our freedom to vote is a lovely and awesome gift but if we do not have a balance or if we choose wrongly the impact does not just affect us personally but literally the entire world in one way or another. It is perhaps one of the few aspects of my life in which I combine both my emotions and a great deal of study of the issues. I care little for rallies or speeches or single incidents but instead look for the totality of the candidate’s essence. For me there is no one issue or party or belief that guides me in making my final choice.

I understand how individuals might feel so strongly about a certain issue that all others become moot in their minds. Many of my pro-life friends believe that only candidates who proven records against abortion are worthy of their consideration. I have known gay friends whose leanings centered on issues of fairness and recognition of their love. Women sometimes focus solely on issues impacting the battle for total equality. Minorities talk of justice. For me all of these things matter and so I often have to choose the candidate whose leanings include a preponderance of adherence to my views while never exactly matching every one of my unique beliefs. When my gut feeling is reviled by a candidate’s general behavior I listen to my instincts. Somehow I have always recognized toxicity and known when to run from it. Emotional acuity is sometimes more life saving than all of the rationality put together. 

History has shown us time and again that we humans sometimes make political choices that are devastating and others surprise us with how well they ultimately unfold. Often it takes decades to realize that things that upset us about a particular candidate actually turned out to be one of the best moments in history. We can actually use a study of history to help us unravel the knotty problem of deciding how to cast our votes. In my own case I attempt to find the person who understands that he or she is working for all of us, not just the loyal followers. Nor is the office to be used for personal gratification or glory. I should always be about the people, all of the people, even the ones that are not particularly likable or whose views are outliers. It’s a huge responsibility and we should be looking for someone with the skills to get as close to being able to do that as possible. 

Of course there is no perfect human being and so anyone that we select is bound to have flaws. The measure of character must be made over a lifetime, not a momentary gaffe. Character matters particularly in times of great upheaval. A good leader is willing to admit to imperfections and then work to overcome them. A good leader takes personal responsibility. 

My world is a microcosm of the bigger one in which all of humankind lives. I have worked for extraordinary leaders for whom I chose to ply my skills as a teacher because I sensed that they truly cared for the educators and the students for whom they were responsible. They were protective of those in their care, often shouldering criticisms and anger that otherwise might have been aimed at others. They were willing to hear concerns and enact plans to correct them. They worried about the school, not themselves. They were willing to admit when they were wrong and change course. They cared equally about those who supported them and those who disliked them. They taught me what makes a just and fair leader and I use that experience anytime that I go to vote.

We have less than three months to decide who will take the reins of our government. Ignore the soundbites. Avoid the propaganda. Read up on the Constitution and history. Listen to your heart not the bickering. Consider both character and platforms. Look beyond your personal needs to consider those of others. Then make your choice and pray that you have done the right thing.