Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

What Do You Do When Your World Spirals Out of Control?

            I have been absent from my blog for nearly two weeks, but I have a good reason. I was diagnosed on a Thursday with a heart problem and given medication to get me through the weekend. I took one of the medications for the first time at dinner on Friday and passed out at the table about 10-15 minutes later. I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and kept in the hospital for the weekend. An angiogram was performed on Monday morning, followed by the placement of a stent in my main left artery. That same day I learned that my beloved sister-in-law passed away from a suspected heart attack. I came home from the hospital for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my family. I have slowly gained strength over the past week and expect my progress to continue.

            I take this opportunity to wish all of you a Happy and Successful New Year, and I hope that your Christmas was happy and all that you dreamed. 

I read an editorial this morning that caused me to think differently about the new year. It introduced the quality of sacrifice on a general basis. What do you think a collective amount of sacrifice would do for America?

The U.S. already has a legacy of collective sacrifice on which to build. If you’re familiar with someone who lived through World War II, you have likely heard their stories of food rations, war bonds and rubber drives. You would have heard the innovative ways Americans made do with less….

And you would also be familiar with the patriotism and sense of duty that rewarded each person who gave what they could for something greater than themselves.

In the 80 years since, the rate at which life has improved would be unfathomable to the elders of that day, which makes this next question a riddle for the ages: Why does this era of plenty ask so little of its people?

Americans are richer, healthier and more educated than at any time in the nation’s history. They have greater access to information than the thousands of years of human history combined. The fabled Library of Alexandria once held as many as 700,000 books. The Brigham Young University library – only one among hundreds of such libraries in just this country – offers 4.7 million books. One would think Americans ought to be able to give in proportion to what they have gained.

Yet, one senses a missing layer of humility and gratitude that only sacrifice can elicit.

This year, what would happen if Americans collectively gave up just 1% of their day – no more than 15 minutes – in pursuit of improving humanity? Could they cut out one episode of a Netflix show to care for a neighbor? Could they eliminate a nighttime scroll through Instagram to text a grandparent?

What about material goods? Americans reportedly waste a pound of food per person per day. What would happen if they donated the money that would otherwise drop in the trash can? Could they part with excess income to support a homeless shelter, a family on hard times or a community fundraiser?

            I watched a TED talk about setting goals for the new year. The speaker suggested breaking a desired new habit down to bite-sized pieces. He used flossing teeth for an example. A tiny step would be to floss one tooth. After a few days of flossing one tooth, the habit would be established, and more teeth would be flossed. He also suggested that the new action be tied to something else.  “After I do _______, I will ______.” He used pushups for example. “After I empty my bladder, I will do two pushups.” After a short period of time, he was doing fifty or more pushups per day.

            What can I do to improve humanity in 15 minutes per day? How can I tie it to another action and make it a habit? I could call one of my aging siblings or their spouse. If I called one per day, I could call most of them in the period of a week. We were once twelve siblings with twelve spouses, and now we are fewer. Two of my brothers and their wives have graduated from this life, meaning there are only ten households left and nine when I subtract myself. Another brother and three brothers-in-law have also graduated, meaning that there are four widows who need TLC. 

            I could pick up the garbage from my neighbor’s dumpster after the ravens pull it out of the overflowing bags. This would leave the neighborhood cleaner and cause less work for the garbageman. I could bake cookies and share them with the neighborhood children. I stopped baking cookies for health reasons, but I could bake for other people.  

            There are most likely many small sacrifices that I could make that would improve humanity. I just need to keep the idea in my mind and look for opportunities.

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