Saturday, June 11, 2011

Things That Matter

I like many things, from avocados to zucchini. Not just food things. While enjoying my morning walk today, I thought about some things that make life worth living for me. I recognize that the things I like best are also good for people as a whole.

Here are the things that matter to me.

1. Faith. It shapes us as we grow throughout life. I believe that we Christians should look to what Jesus did and said as reported in the New Testament. We should not be distracted by Christians who forget that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Faith means ordering our national behavior to avoid wars. It means loving our neighbors as ourselves, and not using our fellow human beings for our individual or national selfish purposes. I believe that individually, locally and nationally, we should respect the faith of others who practice their faith differently. Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, was reported to have said that he admired Jesus but not the Christians.

2. Relationships. Family matters greatly. Good family relationships strengthen us. They support us in our need. They give us environments in which to nurture each other. I love my five adult children, four grandchildren, brothers and their wives and children and grandchildren. I loved my husband even through stormy years together. A permanent partner is important for health and happiness. Good friends are few but satisfying. Family and friends are not to be manipulated but honored. When we offend our family or friends, it is important to mend the relationships. I have offended my family and friends but not ended the relationships. On the corporate and national scenes, we have seen examples of abuse of relationships throughout history. What must a person do to his or her relationships in order to become President? How many Presidents and politicians and celebrities have dishonored their wives through infidelity? How many worship power?

3. Health. Good health makes life worth living. I order my life around the hope of long life without disability or chronic illness. Our American medical system is a good thing when we have emergencies or life threatening illnesses. It isn’t very good in the way its benefits are distributed. I am thankful for Medicare and hope our politicians do not destroy it. Many opportunities are available to encourage good health. A large amount of material on health is available to us in books and on the internet. I think it is hard to navigate through all the contradictory information. Yet we have opportunities to make decisions about our health. I believe that many Americans live their lives with obesity, degenerative diseases including heart disease and diabetes, buying time with prescription and nonprescription drugs, while losing the health battle. I also believe that these conditions are preventable; my opinion has been voiced by many doctors and other health professionals. I believe that if what I said above about faith is valid, the United States should provide all Americans with a single payer medical care system. I also know that the issue has become one of politics rather than caring for one’s neighbor.

4. Food. Food is related to health. Good food promotes health; bad food promotes illness. I like to cook. I like the taste, color, texture, and smell of food. I like having farmers’ markets in Madison where I can buy fresh vegetables and frozen grass-fed meats. I enjoy eating in good restaurants. And I recognize that there is a big land mine in all this. The joy of variety in supermarkets brings with it the possibility that we will bring home bags of processed and genetically altered “foods” that are likely to bring on poor health. The wide availability of fast food for a stressed and hurried population makes bad food easy to consume. Michelle Obama has given visibility to obesity among children. Who will win, Michelle or our unhealthy economics of food production? Some people find themselves depending on junk food in fast food restaurants and convenience stores. Of course they get sick.

5. Brains. An educated population can make wise decisions. It doesn’t always do it, but it can do it. An educated population is likely to make informed choices about living. I value my education. It’s not just about finding jobs, although that helps, but it is about being human. A good public school system is important for everyone. A good university should not be out of economic reach for people who want to be educated. The internet provides a great deal of educational material. Good libraries offer reading materials for all kinds of people without discrimination. They need our support. It is no accident that I chose to be a librarian.

6. Mobility. We can travel, move into different homes, enjoy walking in the woods. Our country offers good highways that take people everywhere. Many cities have transit systems. Individually, we have crutches, walkers and wheelchairs. If we have money, we can see the world. If we don’t have money, well, too bad. At least we can walk around the block. Much of our mobility depends of money and government policy regarding how to go from point A to point B. Roads or railroads or airlines? We have come a long way with mobility. I am thankful for mine.

This is dedicated to Andrea, my granddaughter, whose high school graduation ceremony is today. I hope she will care about these things as she begins a new part of her life.

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