At the end of the day, it’s about choice. Well, choices. Life, I’m talking about, in general, but I could be talking about the specific. Our days are filled with choices. Sometimes they are seeking the best possible, and sometimes they are settling for the least worst. Sometimes it is simply what to wear or what to eat; sometimes it is far more important than that: a stand, a commitment, a future. Every day is a menu of options, and each day is filled with choice.
The care and feeding of a place depends on us all, on a certain awareness of the direction of a society, of the decency of a people, of the conscience of one among many. We are a collective, dependent and connected and gathered, but we move because we make decisions individually that determine not just our direction, but the future for us all.
What we choose, what we decide is sometimes as simple as the menu before us at a restaurant: what do we like, what looks good: steak or chicken or fish, soup or salad or dessert, sweet tea or coffee or wine. Sometimes the choice is far more consequential, about life or death, about win or lose, about progress or stasis. But choice, the simple fact of choice, is always meaningful because it always says something; it always explains: how one feels, what one wants, who one is. The indication of a direction or the tone of the decision or the tenor of a move is frequently trimmed in explanation, obvious and unknown, transparent and cloaked. The drawing of sides or the dressing of arguments are choices that betray not simply agendas or appetites, but the essential, the snap judgement core. It is seen in both the unguarded response and the calculated attack…and in the private moment or the unseen offering (if there can even be something private or unseen in today’s wired world) which is what makes the choices, our choices, both obvious and difficult.
I have always believed that our lives and the decisions that guide us are simple: make the choice that does the most good for the most people. Of course that is not always easy…and I guess it is occasionally naive. But these choices, whether for a leader or our lives, cannot be capricious. They must not be impulsively devoid, decidedly bereft; they must be driven by reason and care, with a greater awareness of the greater good. Because that good is what allows us to be great.
Yes, what we have before us, today or this week or next year, is a design of decisions, a puzzle of possibilities that will explain us and define us and determine our lives. It can be easy to rail against the tried or fall upon the certain, as easy to pontificate change as to sanction the status quo; but it is hard to piece together the possible, to imagine beyond a choice. An unsighted choice, guided by some notion of allegiance or ideology, robs us of the freedom of individual hope. And we all know better.
Sometimes we despair in the face of impossible decision, of challenge and conscience, of absolutely wrong and not quite right. But that is where the work begins: when the best choice is between the lesser of two imperfect choices, it then becomes our responsibility to make that choice better. Because at the end of the day, it should always be hope that we choose.