Good people

Several events and memories have given me cause to consider the families of people from which I come, and from which my wife comes.

Last month I drove from Alberta to California to visit a 97 year-old aunt. Her mind as sharp as it has always been, we talked about family history, ancestors whom I had only dim, childhood memories of, others I had never known, or had only heard stories about.

The recent news of a cousin’s bout with cancer causes me to contemplate life in its overall sweep, its brevity, its fickleness, its unpredictability.

Yesterday’s email from a woman recently married into my wife’s family: “Your parents were truly two of the most genuine people I had ever had the pleasure of meeting, and I will never forget them. . . . I am proud to be a part of [your] family.” This about a father who had barely an elementary school education, but who exhibited a profound wisdom about life, parents who “made do” in whatever circumstances life threw their way.

Both my father and my wife’s father had reputations of being able to fix whatever was broken.  Both were considered quite genius in being able to make things work again.

Eight years ago we met our future daughter-in-law’s parents for the first time, in China, a culture still very mysterious to western ways of thinking. One of the questions that evening from my son’s future father-in-law, after we had spent several hours discussing cultural things such as family values, life aims, etc, was, “Are there other people in Canada as good as you?”

That question set me back in my chair!! As good as us? We are just two very ordinary people in our Canadian landscape. There is nothing remarkable about us. We struggle through life like anyone else. We make our way as best we can, learn from our mistakes, live content in whatever circumstances life throws our way (like our parents before us). But that one question has stuck with me over the years, especially upon occasions like last night, when we were with our son and daughter-in-law to help celebrate Chinese New Year’s Eve. Her father had just returned yesterday from China where he had gone to complete some paperwork in their efforts of immigrate to Canada. He was successful, making the evening one of joyous celebration on several levels. Those Chinese folks, who a scant few years ago knew almost nothing about Canada, whose exposure to North American culture was only through our son, and then us, are now almost through the process of moving here permanently and becoming part of that Canadian culture. In their own way, in their own context, they too are “good people”. Their values coincide with ours to a very significant extent.

All of these events and memories have given me cause to reflect on who we are in the larger context of the world. For myself, I have become aware of the fact that my role in society is not necessarily to accomplish grand aims. I am to be a common, everyday sort of person, spreading good will, peace and compassion in whatever way I can to individuals in small ways. My OBE‘s have reinforced this self-perception and reassured me that I am indeed doing a good job at what I came to earth to do.

I look at the families around me and see that I come from stock with similar tasks: simple, everyday people who live life quietly, accomplishing whatever tasks life throws their way, being “good people”.

This February morning, in the year 2015, I picked up a book my wife had just laid bedside for herself to read. Its title caught my attention. Reading the back cover showed me this book was right along the lines of what I had been contemplating recently.

“In a time of social and ecological crisis, what can we as individuals do to make the world a better place? . . . . a grounding reminder of what’s true: we are all connected, and our personal choices bear unsuspected transformational power. By fully embracing and practicing this principle of interconnectedness, we become more effective agents of change and have a stronger positive influence on the world. . . . Eisenstein relates real-life stories that show how small, individual acts of courage, kindness, and self-trust can change our culture’s guiding narrative of separation, which, he explains, has generated the present planetary crisis.”

I will read this book after my wife is finished it, and after I finish reading the several books I myself have on the go, and will review it in this space. Watch for it!!

In the meantime, I will go about my very ordinary life, doing very ordinary things, together with very ordinary people in a very ordinary context!