October 28th, 2020

Oct 28, 2020

Image: Melanie Kyer

Choices and Their Consequences

From the moment we wake up in the morning we make hundreds of decisions, some without thinking, like how much cream to put in the coffee. Others change the course of our lives and those around us forever, though we may not know it at the time.

When I was 16 my parents made one such decision: they agreed to sign the paperwork enabling me to become an exchange student. They thought I would never be chosen and did not want to hurt my dreams. But I was chosen, because on the other side of the Atlantic, a girl 18 days my junior, who lived in a suburb of Copenhagen, Denmark convinced her parents to sign similar papers  agreeing to host an American high school student for a year. None of us had any idea how far reaching those decisions would be, and just not for that year, but well into the future, and for the rest of our lives.

Or consider the day I sat in the office of the Chief Nurse of Vietnam, having to decide which of two large hospitals I should ask to be assigned to. Both hospitals could easily find a slot for my best friend from college when she arrived six weeks later. Weighing what I knew about each hospital was of no help. One specialized in caring for burn patients, the other for people with brain injuries. I chose the latter and because of that my friend was introduced to her husband – something that might not have happened had I made the alternative choice.

 I was 16 and 22 when those decisions were made. Now I am 73. I will always be grateful for the decision to have been an exchange student, but sometimes wonder about that second one. Would Joanne still have met her husband, would I have met Jim much earlier? Given that both men were medical evacuation helicopter pilots and that Jim lived next to the other hospital it is hard not to think about how the choices I made influenced our lives.

It is human nature to wonder about making choices like this. We may look at the homes where we live, the relationships we have with each other, even our membership in St George’s and wonder what would have happened if we’d chosen otherwise. It can make for sleepless nights, be fodder for unusual dreams, the plots for novels–or make us wish for different outcomes.

Whether we come to believe we’ve made the right choice or not we can’t go back. We can only look at our actions and decide how we could make things better for the people around us, and for ourselves.

Next week we are contemplating making very important decisions. However, it isn’t the outcome of the election that matters most. It is what we do after it is over. How will each one of us react to the elation or disappointment we will feel about the outcome—at every level of government? How will we approach people we care about who had hoped for a different election result?

Because I know the members of St George’s, I believe we will care, that we will want to make things better for our friends and ourselves. If that’s not true then why do some of us regularly sit outside for the entirety of a cold autumn night to express our concerns for our neighbors in need and the services provided by YCSA?

Like most people I wait for the future, with hope, much like I did a month after I turned 17, and boarded a ship to Europe– and an unknown future. I do, however, believe the answers are there—in our love of God, and with Jesus as our guide. As was read in the gospel for this Sunday, October 25th, Jesus was asked to rank the importance of the ancient Hebrew commandments. This was his answer: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself.

Words to live by, not just now, but always. 

Barbara Kautz