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Thursday, September 15, 2005



I've been in a tug of war lately, between intense mundane matters that want to consume me and my pleas for them to keep their distance at a time when heart and mind should, more than ever, recognize how little these day to day stresses matter in the overall scheme of things.

Guilt. Lots of guilt. I am materialistic, picking furniture from catalogues, obsessing over color choices and whether this loveseat will go with that sofa. I am superficial, sending a check to the Red Cross rather than rolling up my sleeves, opening my home. To feel such guilt is human, I realize, but also so unacceptably self-absorbed - what good does my guilt do anyone? Do I claim some moral superiority for having pangs of hurt for all those who have lost the people they love? Great, I'm not a heartless asshole. So what?

This struggle is familiar -- my conscience knows it well. In college I was consumed with concerns about AIDS and the culture of poverty -- but my sympathy never amounted to action. I see a movie like Hotel Rwanda and there's the guilt again. For years I have been talking about wanting to volunteer -- talking.

Sometimes I reassure myself: I work in public service media, I make contributions to society that way. But that doesn't stop anyone's hurt. I think of how I would feel if anything happened to my husband, and I imagine a nurse or volunteer there to help me -- one of those selfless types who will hold your hand no matter how dirty it is, who will give their time to comfort and help you instead of bowing out, guiltily, with explanations of their need for downtime, or all the tasks they're trying to juggle.

Time and again I reach the same conclusion, that we are defined by our actions. Our choices. There are so many people ready to give me the easy out, to tell me to give myself a break, we can't all be heroes. But the thing is: we can.

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