Conscience is a man???s compass

April 21, 2011

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I’m not entirely sure I have a conscience, at least not the kind that makes me want to sponsor starving children in Africa or hang out at the local retirement home. My conscience goes as far as it’s convenient, and that’s roughly it.

I have friends who do far better than me. They volunteer at hospitals, they walk and run for all sorts of causes, they organize benefits for earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. I merely have three receptacles to separate trash, paper, and glass and plastic. Even my recent donations to Minnesota Public Radio and Twin Cities Public Television were spurred as much by the thank you gift as anything. Nobody’s life is being saved.

Not that the measure of conscience has to be as dramatic as saving a life. I do feel pretty good about my recycling habits. I was aghast recently when I was at a neighbor’s place for our condominium board meeting and he said, upon the other three of us immediately chiming in about his cavalier tossing of a piece of paper into the trash rather than recycling, “You mean I should have an additional garbage can for saving paper?” We all chirped the indignant “yes!” He just didn’t get it. Occasions like that are when I feel so frustrated when I imagine how much landfill volume would be saved if each person recycled just one more [fill in the blank].

So I recycle well and I drive a little gnat of an economy car and I do anything except drive my little gnat of an economy car for my less than two-mile commute to work. But I still feel inadequate on the life-saving, life-changing scale. It’s not that I don’t care, exactly, but my selfishness holds the trump card.

I do think about it. As my child-bearing years draw to a conclusion and I wonder how I will ever (because I sure don’t currently) feel fulfilled in my life since I didn’t procreate, it seems pretty obvious that one way to compensate would be by volunteering with some organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters, through which I could have a long-term, hands-on, influential relationship with a youngster. But even that I don’t think about foremost because I want to be a positive force in some kid’s life. I think about it in terms of how I can still eke out some measure of life-worth for my own puny existence.

But if I get to that place in the end, does it matter so much why? I don’t know.

One Response to “Conscience is a man???s compass”

  1. Tim Says:

    What about the impact your books have on so many children’s lives? I think you’ve done more for kids than you really think. Besides, having your own kids can be a pain in the backside, or so I’ve been told.


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