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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Choices

Today on the way home from church, JM and I were listening to some talk radio show. This is unusual for us. On Sundays we typically listen to a CD of a cappella hymns, partly because there are no radio shows we're particularly interested in, and partly because we just like listening to the hymns. But today we were taking my car to church, and my car is a DX model -- crank windows, power nothing, and no tape or CD player. Ergo, we listened to the radio. I have no idea what show we were listening to; I was only listening with half an ear. But right before the end of the program a caller called in and said something very memorable:

"To the lady who says that in today's society women *have* to work: There's only one thing in this life that we *have* to do, and that's die. Everything else is a choice."

The host made some comment about how you have to pay taxes, too, and the caller replied, "No, you can *choose* not to pay taxes, and then face the consequence of your *choice* by spending a few years in prison."

And, you know, I think that for the most part that's a good summary of our lives. Some things, such as a freak accident or a chronic illness, are not the result of our choices. Other life events are inherited from our parents. But I think that for the most part our circumstances are the product of our choices. For example: your house is destroyed in a terrible hurricane and you lose everything you own. But you *chose* to live on the coast of Florida. You suffer from diabetes, but you did not watch what you ate and you refused to exercise like you should have. You are retired and alone, struggling to make ends meet on social security and medicare, but you never took the time to foster a real relationship with your children who could have taken care of you in your old age. You and your spouse combined barely make enough money to get by -- but you pay $100 a month for cable, eat convenience foods constantly, pay through the nose for the best daycare for your children, and are deep in debt from your student loans, expensive cars, and house with rooms no one ever goes in. Your car broke down, but you made the choice not to get the scheduled maintenance -- or: your car runs fine, but you have no money left in your checking account after paying for the 120,000 mile maintenance. What happens then if you get into a wreck and have to make repairs on the car?

We have some friends who are in pretty big trouble financially. They were way behind in their bills, which were legion, and they ate out almost daily. BUT two or three weeks ago they made the choice to stop eating out, and to get back on track with their bills, and to stop spending money on video games and other unnecessary purchases. I talked with the wife the other day, and she was shocked at how much extra money they had in their checking account this month.

JM and I made the choice to eat more organic and healthy foods, even though we're on a tight budget already. This means that we will not have as much extra money at the end of the month for paying down the principle on the student loan. We could pay off the loan right now, but it would completely wipe out all our savings. So we are making the choice to keep the debt and leave our emergency fund in tact. We'll see in about 5 years what the consequences of that choice were.

My sister is getting married to a man who is currently getting his PhD in Mathematics. They won't get as much time together as they might have liked because they have decided that she will work to make ends meet -- but the end result will be (God-willing) a better future for them after he graduates. They could have taken out student loans and she could have gotten a part-time job, or not worked at all. Then they could have had more together time in the early months of their marriage, but more stress after his graduation.

The point I'm trying to make is that our choices matter. No one *has* to do anything. So to the lady who says that in today's society women have to work to make ends meet: you work because you choose to, through one choice or another, and I know from personal experience and through the experiences of women across the country in situations much less "comfortable" than my own that it is all TOO possible for a woman to stay at home -- but only if she is willing to make the choices to *make* it possible.

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3 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Alan

    Well said.

    As the knight guarding the holy grail advised "Choose wisely." (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) Your choices make all the difference.

  • CappuccinoLife

    Amen! Though, that idea is a really, really unpopular one!

    It reminded me of something I've been thinking of in regards to neighbors. We are in a "disadvantaged area", and the neighborhood really looks it. But really, even these people have a choice. They are choosing to let their homes degrade into pigstyes. In some of the most poverty-stricken nations of the world, it is a matter of a woman's pride that her mud hut and dirt yard are kept immaculate. But here, people who's housing and food are paid for in part or entirely by the government and who spend the bulk of their day sitting on plastic chairs on their porches can't pull themselves together enough to keep thier home and yard tidy! They would say the squalor is because they are poor and marginalized. The reality is, they have made a choice to live that way.

  • Birdie

    Well said.