Letter: When it gets personal
Editor of the Reformer,
When my garden is unhappy, I am unhappy. It has been so dry (I would use the word drought, but it feels disingenuous after what California went through) that the newer plants are dying, the more established are wilting, and even the trees are drooping. This feels personal; even more personal than the pandemic which has not yet had a major impact on my life. I know there is a crisis of racism, the financial world is reeling, there is evil in the White House, our planet is on fire and human civilization is in danger, but here on my hill in Vermont, the most disturbing effect of any of the current plagues is my poor garden.
Unfortunately, this is how we humans routinely respond to adversity. Does it affect me personally? No? Then why do anything about it? We each have our sphere of experience. Most are limited in scope. We forget how dependent we are on each other, that this is a global community. What happens on the other side of the planet has an impact on me, whether I feel it today or next year. Racism allowed to flourish will lead to an increase in preventable deaths and the grief and anger that comes from black men dying at the hands of white police who are supposed to protect and serve EVERYONE. The resulting unrestrained hatred of "Other" will lead to an increase in misogyny, perhaps overturn Roe V. Wade, and bring about other restraints on women's personal freedom. As people disregard the safety recommendations regarding the pandemic, they will contract the virus and spread it to others who are perhaps more vulnerable than they. If Trump is reelected, the further elimination of safeguards for the planet will be felt in Vermont as they will be suffered the world over. All of this is personal.
If I do nothing, my garden will die. That may not sound bad, but my soul depends on my garden for its nourishment. It will surely shrivel as the garden does. Risking a dry well to save it is doing something.
It may feel hopeless: the garden, the pandemic, the planet, racism, politics, but we have personal choice and can decide to do something. This may involve donating money or volunteering time to a cause, or demonstrating, or writing letters to Congress. It most certainly involves voting. For some of us, prayer, meditation, acts of kindness, generosity, spreading joy wherever possible, watering the garden, is doing something.
Doing nothing harms us all.
Westminster, June 17
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