As I grow older, it seems to me, I am faced with some kind of moral choice nearly every day. Then, I suppose that it’s something that’s true for every thinking person.
- Should I watch Game of Thrones or search for the Vatican Channel on my Roku?
- Should I continue to espouse the obvious truths of Creationism or trouble myself with science and facts by following the Theory of Evolution?
- Should I be supporting Brad or Angelina?
- Should I worry about the obviously faked data supporting Global Warming or continue to push for the Pipeline that will help a few zillionaires keep their children in elite private schools and screw up the environment for our children’s children?
- Should I make an effort to feed a hungry family or contribute to a child’s dream of owning a bicycle?
Wait a minute! That last bullet point sounds different…it sounds serious. What’s going on here?
Several years ago, when I lived in New York City, I was faced with moral choices on every block. We would be leaving a Chinese restaurant, discussing the dumplings, and then be confronted by a homeless man or woman. I would dig in my pocket for a dollar or I would give them the left-overs I was carrying home. With the number of street people growing constantly, there had to be a limit to my generosity.
But, here in the North Country, one isn’t confronted by these daily dilemmas. Unless you stopped to look around and see the trees in the forest. Twelve miles from $6,000,000 vacation homes in and around Lake Placid there are people who live so far below the poverty line they are nearly out of sight.
My moral dilemma of late is the discovery of a sign along the Rainbow Lake Road, a mile from our home. It is hand-painted and reads KIDS BOTTLES. Back in Gabriels, by the main road, Route 86, are two small brown sheds. A few years ago, these sheds were run by the local Girl Scout Troop. People could drop off returnable bottles and cans…the money going to the Scouts. The sheds would overflow. Now, the money goes to the local food pantry. The sheds still are usually filled.
I drink a fair amount of tonic water because I read that the quinine additive would help me with my painful leg cramps. It seems to help…in a way…but it leaves me with several issues to resolve…
- I could stand and feed the liter bottles into the big gray machine at Price Chopper in Lake Placid. When the large plastic bag was empty, I would find Mariam and give her the ticket for $ .95. Hardly helping our grocery bill (which would contain ten more bottles of tonic water and $2.50 for a copy of the New York Times).
- I could take the easy way out and throw the bottles into our recycle bin (not really an option…it’s my nickel and I don’t want a nickel of mine in some account in Albany of deposits paid but not redeemed).
- I could drop the bottles at the brown sheds in Gabriels, helping in a small way, to feed a local hungry family.
- Or, I could stop at the hand-painted sign on Rainbow Lake Road and donate the few nickels to a family who were in the process of helping their child save for a new bicycle.
To many of you, my faithful readers, the choice may be clear in your mind already. But, for me, it isn’t so clear. Nothing in life is black or white…there are so many gray areas. Of course, food is essential, but all the local grocery markets have food pantry boxes already.
The dilemma lies in the gray area of life. Death by starvation is not something the North Country has experienced, at least as far as I know.
I hesitate with my bag of bottles. Do I contribute to alleviating a large-scale problem of hunger or aid in the happiness of a child, who will someday own a bike?
I don’t have the answers…I only raise the questions that keep me awake at night. How do I play out my role in the Social Contract?
Yesterday, I dropped my half-dozen bottles behind the chipboard hand-painted sign. Remembering my own childhood and the pure innocent act of riding a bicycle. I wanted to help the kid own a bike. In a few weeks, I’ll probably drop my bag of returnables at the brown sheds.
Either way, someone loses and someone gains. All I can do is alternate my actions with my conflicted conscious.