Recently, I woke with the morning’s light peeking through the glass of the door that opens my bedroom to the outside. A pinkish glow painted the sky. I love awakening to nature’s alarm clock. As my consciousness stirred in those early morning hours, I felt grateful I was warm and secure in my bed. I had a choice to make; shall I get up or sleep in? As I stirred for the second time an hour later, raindrops glistened on tree trunks and clouds thickened like meringue on pie.
I am fully aware I had a choice about where I had slept the night before and all my options were comfortable and safe. Others haven’t much choice for where to sleep and awaken. Occasionally I might sleep on the living room sofa to watch the burning embers in the fireplace. Someone else might sleep on a couch in another’s living space because they have no home or bed of their own. Still others sleep in cardboard boxes beneath underpasses or in makeshift camps deep in the woods along the creek in a city park. Some sleep fitfully on a metal bench in a penitentiary cell.
I’m struck by the relationship between choices and peace.
Perhaps having options and the opportunity to choose for oneself is part of a peaceful life. Retirement gives me the choice to sleep in. Others can’t. No matter if it’s cold or wet, workers still must commute or be outside in the weather to do their jobs—paving roads or delivering mail. Others travel home from working the night shift. Some may never have enough savings to retire and must work a lifetime, even in jobs that bring little meaning or hope to their lives.
Some workers stand at bus stops in early morning hours, bundled in coats and scarves, mittens and boots, to keep warm or dry. I’ve been there; I often ride the bus even in miserable weather. But I also know I’m making that choice. I have a car. Sometimes I choose to bike or walk. I’ve always lived near work, a grocery store, the pharmacy, my doctor—all benefits that a life of advantages has given me. Income, class, skin color, gender, and cultural background afford these choices to some of us—the same choices which have been historically denied to others.
So I ask, what choices can each of us make so a greater number of people can have options and the ability to choose? What part can we play in creating opportunities for others in a way that might bring about a greater likelihood of a more peaceful life?
I suggest that an important part may be to rethink how we act in the ordinary course of our lives. Perhaps, how we vote, donate money, volunteer, or decide policy and procedure in our workplaces. All these actions involve choices, and we can choose differently. Perhaps we might borrow from an old slogan about simplicity and “choose differently so that others can simply choose.”
We might volunteer at a homeless shelter so that someone can have the choice of a safer place to sleep. Or we can volunteer with organizations working to reduce the causes of homelessness thus creating more opportunity for choice with greater permanence. We can give food to a panhandler and reduce his suffering in a small way in one moment in time. Or we can donate money to clinics that effectively treat mental illness. We can promote affordable housing, mass transit, or fairly funded neighborhood schools. We can do this even when it means some of us pay more so that others may simply choose.
We can extend consideration to all members of our community, not just those like us or closest to us. We can vote, support candidates, or communicate with lawmakers to promote inclusiveness and fairness. We can change government or business policies and procedures that result in advantages for certain groups and negative outcomes for others. We can increase voter registration and remove obstacles to full political participation. We can work toward a ballot that includes both candidates and positions that reflect the needs of citizens who’ve been traditionally left out or deliberately blocked out of our community’s decision-making. We can insist that leaders make our police and courts operate justly for everyone. We can urge our employers to replace authoritarian leadership with greater participation for workers and establish wages that support families instead of poverty.
So let every one of us broaden our awareness and actions to share the power and benefits of our community’s pie. Let each of us decide what part to play in choosing differently so that others may simply choose. And may all of us awaken with more peace in our lives because we had a choice of where we would sleep the night before.
Diane Kramer is a wonderfully active supporter of Peace Through Pie and a regular Peace Post blogger.