An early morning business trip put me and my husband on a 4:00 a.m. shuttle ride from a Portland, Oregon area hotel to the airport. I’m not a morning person so early chit-chat is typically not my norm, but the bus driver was a friendly guy and we were the only people on his bus, so talk of weather and the early hour prevailed.
When I asked about him pulling the middle of the night shift, he told me he started at 3:30 a.m. and ended at 2:00 p.m., this was his first week on a new job, and he commuted 50 minutes from the Mt. Hood area. “Ouch,” I said. “Guess that affects your sleep.”
Expecting the typical grumbling, his response surprised me. “No one said I had to do this,” he stated matter-of-factly. He went on to say he never understood people who complain about their jobs or what they have to do. “Why don’t they leave and do something else?” he asked. “I have a choice every day. I choose to work here.”
His words stayed with me. At first I thought them reflective of his great attitude. But I’ve come to think of his words differently, representing his way of orienting in the world. He’s right, he does have a choice. And so do I. It’s a powerful thought.
I have a choice to exercise today or not; to do a great job at whatever I do today or not; to hug my husband and tell him I love him today or not. I have a choice to play with my granddaughters or stay buried in my gadgets, to smile at a stranger, let a driver into traffic, or stay in touch with family and friends. I have a choice to make someone’s life easier or harder, to be kind or inconsiderate, to criticize or encourage.
I have a choice to hold onto what went wrong or grow from mine or other people’s mistakes. I have a choice to forgive or withhold forgiveness, to love or hate, to laugh or scowl. I have a choice to embrace the life I have or wish for someone else’s.
It’s easy to like our choices when things go well. But life can be messy, disappointing, complicated, frustrating, and challenging. What do we see, then? As 19th-century journalist and novelist, Alphonse Karr, wrote, “Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses.” How do you orient to your world, responsibilities, challenges, and life when you find more thorns than roses?
That bus driver sparked my thinking about a bigger choice. It’s not just that we can choose how we approach our lives and the people in them. In the scheme of things, at least for me, the choice goes deeper. This is the only life I have. I can define it or be defined by it; wish for all I don’t have or enjoy all I do; actively engage or watch from the side-lines. The reality is that embracing our life’s potential requires being awake to the choices we make; living purposely, consciously, and good heartedly.