This past week my youngest son and I were in the car, headed back from an errand. We meant to come home one way, but I missed the turn so we wound up somewhere else – and that somewhere else had strawberries on offer. You know the drill. Folding table, homemade sign. The kid and I looked at each other and I pulled over. The berries were $5 a pint; I had $9. The woman said, “Know what? There are only two left anyway. Give me what you’ve got and take ’em both. Enjoy the weekend.” We placed one pint safely out of our reach and went to town on the other.
So there we were, driving along a back road on a perfect summer day. Blue sky, fluffy clouds, windows down, Red Sox game on the radio, and the two of us eating berries straight from the green paper box. That, right there, was one of life’s perfect moments.
I’m so grateful we had that afternoon. I also feel more than a little weird about the fact that we had that perfect day while elsewhere in our country, not too far away, families seeking that same good life free from fear were being torn apart and placed in cages. What does an ethical human do with that contradiction?
I was raised by two very moral, well-intentioned, caring humans who sacrificed a great deal of our family in service to helping strangers, and while I appreciate their intention, it never seemed to work all that well. For the “helped” or us. So I am not doing that. I’m also not about to shield my sons – or myself – from the reality that we are lucky. And let’s be clear, that’s what it is: luck. I did not “earn” that day through work, or my intrinsic worth. I was lucky to be born here with a tremendous amount of privilege. Had I been born in a less fortunate situation, I would be no less deserving of a sunny, carefree day eating strawberries with my son. The parents at our border are no less deserving of this life either.
So the challenge is to harness what I have – what we all have – to bring about fair and humane lives for all. I am not naive. I realize this is not easy, or simple, and I don’t really have a grasp on how. What I am doing is reading a lot, listening a lot, and paying attention to people I trust. I’m not that impressed by selfie-style photo op arrests at the border, but I am watching those who go there to genuinely work. I donate to the ACLU, I do my work here in the belief that the long game is creating a future of well informed, compassionate humans, and I continue to engage in conversations on the responsibility of luck. It’s not enough. I know that. I am also genuinely curious. What approaches are you trying? What are things you are able to do to make a change? This is the moral crisis of our age, what ways have you found to help?
Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.