Living the Spirit
In 2011 author Judith O’Reilly decided to do one good deed every day. In an article written for the London-based Daily Mail’s online publication fittingly known as “Mail Online”, columnist Bianca London interviewed O’Reilly. ‘I didn’t realize when I made the resolution that New Year what I was taking on,’ she says in the epilogue to her book. “I’d made resolutions before… but the idea of doing one good deed a day morphed into something else again. ‘This year made me question what a good life is, how we give our lives meaning, and what it is to love. ‘It also taught me that people don’t always want the good you want to do, and that doing good – believe you me – is harder than it looks.”
Today marks the Feast of Pentecost on the Christian calendar and, in accordance with my own personal filing system for this blog, we are beginning a new series. Also in accordance with my hopes for this blog, this series will not be directly related to any one denomination nor even specific faith. While many will celebrate today as the coming of the Holy Spirit, this series will focus on the spirit of living and how we show our own beliefs every day.
I recently got called out by a person regarding my “seemingly liberal views” in a comment. I always enjoy feedback and often answer direct questions. I respect everyone for having a point of view because I also have a point of view. However, this person asked me to apologize and explain my stance so, my first deed suggestion for this series, is ….respect.
Recently I attended a lecture series having five parts. The last speaker talked about the environment and said several things that were, scientifically, not factual. Did I stand up and scream “Liar!”? No, of course not. This person has the right as an invited speaker to say what they wished. I deeply regret that some people walked out of the meeting thinking erroneous facts but respect for another required that I say nothing. There were several courses of actions I could have taken afterwards. One would have been to engage the speaker in some polite chatter and asked for their references, casually mentioning what I felt might have been said in error. Another would have been to send them a letter comparing my references with theirs and asking for what clarification or reconciliation they knew. A third would have been to accept that the series was more about gathering together than about academic learning and that others probably realized this as well.
I elected the third course of action, out of respect. Was it a pleasing choice? No, not really but I do believe it to have been the best. I could, of course, be entirely wrong about that and would love to hear your thoughts. I sincerely hope no one left the meeting and became a vegetarian because of the speaker’s comments that beef cattle are ruining the atmosphere with the amount of methane gas they discharge. The truth is that dairy cattle produce twice as much methane gas as beef cattle. Becoming a vegetarian may be the best health choice for someone but such a decision should be based on health and religious reasons, not a misspoken statement given in a speech.
Was I disappointed that the speaker gave out erroneous information, this being just one example? Naturally I was but again, that is the decision this person made. We all make such decisions, whether it is to jaywalk or pull into a parking place someone else had their eye on or even to short tip a server for their services. These decisions reflect on our being and illustrate our own spirit of living.
I cannot apologize to my reader for being a liberal because I don’t think of myself that way. Reminding that the person screaming about one man’s infidelity also committed infidelity in his own marriage and did so in his multiple marriages does not necessarily make me a liberal. It means simply that I have a brain and memory and am putting both to use.
I firmly believe if we put eight people in a room and ask them one question each regarding the topics of religion, faith, lifestyle choices, or even just fashion preferences, for each question we would probably receive at least twelve difference answers. We should insist everyone think exactly the same as we do. We must respect another person’s right to their own opinion, even when it contradicts their own actions.
It is that contradiction that I hope to illustrate and, perhaps, cause us to consider. I firmly believe most of us are good people and try to live good lives. We sometimes just don’t stop to think and yes, that includes me. Never think I hold myself up as a sterling example. I am, a smy bio states, a struggling wandered on the road of life and I have fallen into more than my fair share of pot holes and taken wrong turns in life.
Life is a journey and I hope in this series, to offer a few ways to make that journey a little more pleasurable and effective. This year there are somewhere in the region of one hundred and ninety-six days in Pentecost. The day named for the fiftieth day after Easter begins what it called “Ordinary Time”. I hope to challenge you during this series to make this time a little less ordinary and a bit more productive – both for the world, your community, and most importantly, yourself.
“You were ordered to obey to Allah, and you were created to perform good deeds.” While I do not identify as a Muslim, I really do appreciate this quote. T he author is considered to be the first person to convert to Islam, being a cousin to Muhammad. As a collector of quotations, he is among my favorites. Respect today that wisdom knows no labels or sectarian divides and do yourself a favor by reading up on this man and some of his quotations.
William Shakespeare once wrote “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” To do something good certainly helps the world but it also helps us be better citizens. I hope you will join me during this series and perhaps even undertake a few of the ideas I’ll mention for yourself. In addition to just offering suggestions for actions, many will include websites for assistance and more ideas.
Recently a Facebook app offered to tell me what my name meant I did in a past life. I took the bait and discovered I was apparently Robin Hood. While I once had an interest in archery, I will confess that riding through a darkened forest with an army chasing me so as to hang me is not really enticing to me. I think I will stay living in this century and be happy for the creature comforts I have. I respect them and the people that make them happen.
We can, however, do our little part to make the world a better place. It is, in every religion and spirituality, part of the credo for living. Whether liberal or conservative, non-religious person or devout, doing good just makes good sense. It doesn’t take a lot of money to create a smile. In fact, tomorrow’s tip for better living just takes seven minutes. Richelle Goodrich sums it up very succinctly: ““Every sunrise is an invitation for us to arise and brighten someone’s day.”