This question posed at one of the recent Democratic primary debates stuck with me. Upon hearing it, images of two of the nearly century-old homes we owned previously popped in to my head. As anyone who has a history of tending older homes knows, these beautiful, complicated dwellings almost always come with gorgeous woodwork, old world charm and a seemingly endless list of of repair and remodeling possibilities.
“Leave each home better than we found it” became our motto. Had we possessed unlimited resources, we could have spent thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and literally years, returning these historic homes to their former glory. However, for us, cost WAS a factor, as were time and life constraints. These real-world considerations required that we get creative, think outside the box, prioritize and make decisions that worked for the home, the neighborhood, and us.
Reflecting on the images of those homes, I realized that my motto is to leave a situation a little — or a lot — better than I found it. Born into white, over-privileged circumstances in the 1950s, I was raised to believe that with sound choices and hard work, I could make a difference. Only years later would I come to understand that not everyone had the advantage to be born into such optimistic and upwardly mobile circumstances. To believe that she or he or they can affect change and leave a situation better than they found it.
Still, it’s my motto and I’m sticking to it even as I admit that there are times when I fall short or that others believe – and rightly so — that I’ve fallen short. It’s a motto that I hope increasing numbers of people will claim. Humankind’s capacity to create separates us from other species on the planet. While we don’t always use this miracle of a gift to the best advantage for ourselves, for one another and for the planet, it is still a gift within our reach.
Regardless of your motto, may we be butterflies for betterment in these swiftly changing times,