Temperature: 97, humidity, 97. Sweat factor: 100%. That was yesterday in New York City.
I’m here for a few days with an extremely limited wardrobe and of the few clothes I do have, most are for the much cooler weather I enjoyed in London during May and June.
I did break down and buy a few things, but without easy access to a washer/dryer, my concern is whether I’ll have something clean to wear on the way home.
Last night, as my youngest son, his wife and I sweatingly made our way back to their west side apartment (steamy after an afternoon of the air conditioning off–necessary when empty because of extremely high electricity rates) after an enjoyable evening with my other son, his wife and their three small kids in their warm east side apartment, and after necessary cool showers for all of us, I picked up my clothes worn that day and said, “Now I know why teenage boys use the sniff test to decide if their clothes are wearable again.”
My son snorted, “Teen age boys! How about adult sons?” My daughter-in-law then laughingly brought out a spray container of odor eliminator and offered it to me.
Now, clothed in my “freshened” shirt and ready to tackle another day, I’m thinking about the difference between compromise and accommodation.
I like doing laundry–always have–so keeping me and my family in fresh clothes has not ever been a problem for me. If this need to wear nothing but absolutely fresh clothes is a basic principle of my life, then doing what I’m doing today is a compromise of my deepest core. That kind of compromise is treacherous to the soul.
If, however, wearing absolutely fresh clothes is more a privilege of time, place, access, and habit, then what I am doing is accommodating to the current situation, and does not damage my integrity.
Each of us has a set of absolutes–those things that must not be compromised. These absolutes shape our decisions, usually unconsciously, and periodically need to be examined to make sure we have not turned a momentary privilege into a timeless principle.
Any kind of societal grouping works best when there is an agreed upon set of absolutes, and with that set kept as small as possible. The more absolutes we have, the less room we have to accommodate to the needs of the current situation and the greater the chance of death-giving divisions.
But without any of those non-compromising stances, the absolutes that form the rocks on which we build our lives, we are less than waves tossed by the wind, doubled minded, going to and fro with no direction, and no hope
Extensive travel, all spent staying in the homes of generous family members, has given me a chance to examine some of my own absolutes. As I pare them down, focusing primarily on the great commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind and all your heart, and all your soul and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself, ” I find myself far more flexible and free to bend without breaking.
It’s a good place.