Longer Write

What good shall I do this day?

The first time I came across the photo above, I was reminded of a series1The series was the short-lived Amazon Prime series Utopia. The quote was uttered by John Cusack’s character. I watched where someone who seems like a good guy takes advantage of the mental illness of someone who seems like a bad guy. The so-called good guy asks his kids, as they all sit at the dinner table, to answer the question “What have you done today to earn your place in this crowded world?” Their answers are wholesome.

A few scenes later, as a form of manipulation, he then asks the question of the so-called bad guy. In that scene, the question takes on a sinister tone.

What have you done today to earn your place in this crowded world?

~

I was eight years old when I found out I was adopted. It happened in a rather cruel fashion, with the woman I thought was my mother yelling at me that I was not a part of the family, that I had been bought like a piece of used furniture that nobody wanted, and that all I had done was destroy her family. This moment was the culmination of years of escalating violence in our household and several months into the divorce proceedings between Aida and my (adoptive) father.

One of the rippling echoes of that day has been a feeling that I had to earn my existence in the world at large. That I needed to carve out my worth to compensate for being worthless. That I needed to fix others to offset all that I had broken. Even if “fixing others” meant sacrificing myself. Maybe especially if that were true.

~

At first, I thought the question What have you done today to earn your place in this crowded world? was excellent. I’d ponder it often, even though I always fell short of a satisfying answer.

Then I came across the question on the mug.

What good shall I do this day?

Similar but oh-so-different.

There’s no implication that we have to do anything to “earn” being alive. There’s no underlying belief that the world is one of finite resources or that those resources should be distributed based on some form of merit.

No, the question instead relies on a different framework:

I am alive today right now – this day and because of that, I have the choice to add to the overall goodness of the world at large. Not because I am compensating for being worthless, not because I must earn my place, but simply because I have it in me to do good and the choice to bring that forth into the world.

What good shall I do this day?

Whatever it may be, I’m grateful for the chance to do it.

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