My Outlook

What we can do when we try

When our youngest daughter went from using open-style lockers to ones requiring combination locks at school, we knew she would resist. So one afternoon we had her practice over and over again. After a few frustrating attempts she crossed her arms and in exasperation exclaimed, "Why can't we just use cubbies?" But after a few more tries she admitted it actually was rather easy. We used that story over the years whenever we wanted to remind her, "See what you can do when you try?"

Last month, residents of Outlook were put on a water restriction. No watering of lawns or gardens; and no washing of cars. Less than 48 hours later the order was rescinded. There was a lot of reaction to the restriction, but also innovation as people considered changes in practice, like putting a bucket in the shower and collecting the water that normally runs down the drain waiting for it to reach a desired temperature. A friend used that water on her flowers and wondered why she hadn't been doing that all along.

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When the restriction was lifted the town indicated we reduced consumption by more than 50%. Little changes put into use during that time could continue and although the reduction wouldn't be nearly as drastic, we might surprise ourselves at what we could do if we put intention into the attempt.  When it comes to water conservation I wonder what more of us could do if we really tried.

People were talking about efforts they remember their grandparents making to conserve and repurpose items. We couldn't help but laugh as one man shared the lengths to which his grandmother went, washing and re-using everything. "Our grandparents were the original recyclers," he remarked. Although some efforts were more successful than others, it pointed out how wasteful we have become in the disposable nature of products we consume in vast amounts. We're told government legislation is on its way, but how much better it would be if we each took steps on our own because it mattered, not because it was mandated. There are things we could do, if it meant enough to us.

There was a comedienne who joked about a woman she worked with, saying, "She has the kind of body I would do anything to have. Except diet and exercise." Funny yes, but it also speaks to how often we accept things to be the way they are, rather than looking into how we might make them better. In any area of our lives. There are steps we can take to build better health. There are choices that can be made to hit personal financial goals. There are ways to reduce the amount of garbage we make or the water we consume, but it takes work. We have to ask ourselves what it is worth to us.

In the hours following the fire at Notre Dame money started pouring in for its rebuild. Whenever a heartbreaking event occurs people look for ways to help, and often the first thought is financial. What was donated in just the first 48 hours was astounding. But where is that same urgency to feed the hungry or house the homeless, or provide care for those with mental illness or fund research into diseases being battled? Don't get me wrong, I believe people have the right to do with their money whatever they choose. Certainly, we can help restore a beautiful cathedral but are we as willing to put those same resources into helping start a new church somewhere? Or dig wells for those whose reality of water restriction means little access to any water--at any time? Why such an immediate reaction to one event, when so many others struggle to find funding? What could more of us do if we tried?

When we're in situations that require us to respond with care and diligence we can certainly be counted on to be resourceful, inventive, ingenious and yes, so very generous. It begs the question, if we can do things when we have to, why aren't we doing the same when we should? It might be a rather remarkable discovery to be able to say, "Look at what we did—because we tried." That's my outlook.





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