Sunday, February 25, 2007

Lovin' Life

On my way home from an afternoon with freinds, I stopped by a grocery store. Hanging out there on the walk in front of the store were two young adults, one boy, one girl, somewhere in the 16 to 19 age range (I guess). They were just hanging out in the evening dark, with the store's awning to keep the rain off. Both wore layers of mostly black clothing, and nice gym shoes, and were lounging on the patio furniture display near one of the doors. The boy was resting his feet on a pair of skateboards. And they were talking and laughing, and having the time of their lives, and clearly enjoying each other's company, despite the cold and wet of a Puget Sound winter rain. And I recalled a stidy that said that children laughed a hundred times more often than adults, or something like that, and for a moment, I mourned being so carefree.

And then I realized that I had no reason to. I live in the United States of America in the twenty-first century. And, by the standards of most of the world, I have nothing to worry about. I can get in my car tomorrow, and drive three thousand miles to the Atlantic Ocean, and no one's going to care. There won't be random goverment checkpoints asking to see my "papers" or demanding that I give them a detailed rationale for my travels. I can pay for food, lodging and gasoline along the way with a little plastic card, secure in the knowledge that the people running my bank aren't going to suddenly steal all of my money and flee the country. I can buy all sorts of random bric-a-brac along the way with cash - and know from one day to the next that about what its worth. If I get a ticket, it will be because I was blowing off traffic laws, not because some underpaid police officers have decided to supplement their income by holding me up for a bribe. I can take my digital camera, and take pictures of almost anything that I see along the way without worrying that I'll be arrested as a spy. If I chose to wear a bracelet, with my name and emergency contact information on it, it will be because I'm concerned that I might get into a traffic accident, not that I'm worried that I'll be killed by political violence.

When I get home, I know that I'll have a roof over my head, access to healthful food, clean drinking water, and if I get careless and fall down the stairs, competent medical care. I have a safe place to keep my things, and a comfortable place to sleep. I can get around my local area to access any number of goods and services that make my life easier.

"So what?" you ask.

"Precisely." I answer. None of this is a big deal. I'm not describing a life that only a "priveledged few" can aspire to. For most us us, it's par for the course. Sure, the United States has it's poor people, but consider the following - even many poor people in the United States have access to personal transportation, own their own homes, and/or possess minor luxury items. Contrast that with the fact that in many parts of the world, if you can get enough calories on a regular basis to be fat, no-one would consider you poor.

So why shouldn't I laugh more often? Sure there are uncertainties ahead of me, circumstances that might completely throw my life off course, and deprive me of everything I have. But I'll burn that bridge when I come to it, and if I'm smart, I'll realize that I'm still likely to be in a position that people the world over would evny. It might not be prudent to completely ignore the future, but there's no reason to not enjoy the present.

So if you see me out in front of the grocery store, kickin' it on the cheesy patio furniture, staying out the rain, and loving life out loud - I haven't lost my mind. I'm realizing when I'm well off. And don't be surprised if I ask you to join me.

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