In a review of the Pixar film, Soul, the writer pointed out that what gives the movie spark and meaning is simply a willingness to embrace life as a gift, not to win life like a talent contest. All too often people appear to focus on the latter.
Author/speaker Rob Bell put it well: “This breath, and this moment, and this life is a gift, and we are all in this together. We all have countless choices every day to take a big breath and say YES to the gift.”
A gift is not something earned or purchased. Gifts come to us apart from our abilities or efforts. They are to be treasured with gratitude and treated with care. The gift of life – and surely no one can take credit for being alive – is a shared experience with all other people. That means we are all in the same boat and need to intentionally work together at keeping it afloat and ship-shape. Treating life as a contest where one needs to outdo everyone else – at least those within my experiential sphere – works contrary to the common good, including one’s own good.
A 7th century B.C. sage once encouraged his community with these words: “Seek the welfare of the city, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Caring for one another and for the common good is to embrace life as a gift. It is a thankful response for being alive and relishing the gift of life.
There are some cornerstones to this thankful response. Caring people are polite (not discourteous), considerate (not disrespectful), generous (not selfish), understanding (not indifferent), loving (not hateful), and forgiving (not vengeful). One’s upbringing and/or circumstances might move one toward either the positive or the negative, but there is always the opportunity to choose the traits that produce communal harmony and inner peace over against their destructive opposites.
General Dwight Eisenhower experienced the horrendous consequences of treating life as a contest to be won. While he acknowledged that there are cases where force is necessary to curb evil, he was quick to add that “only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead people to the dawn of eternal peace.”
A person can only control oneself. But the more who embrace life as a gift, the more Earth will be the kind of planet on which we all enjoy living.