What We Owe Each Other

So if you’ve been following along you know we’ve been on a mini-binge over here through season 2 of The Good Place on Netflix–I know, I know…I’m a season behind some of you, but I know some other folks just now catching on to this gem of a show and so promise to avoid crucial spoilers if at all possible.

But y’all! Omigod. The Michael-invokes-Sam Malone scene on the season 2 finale! Gah! So perfect, bar towel slung over his shoulder and all!

And also y’all–the question he poses to jacked up/endearing Eleanor, as she’s musing on moral particularities and what’s right and wrong and how to be good and what she deserves or doesn’t deserve…it’s all classic drunk-and-troubled-patron-at-the-bar talk on the one hand, but on the other, that one little scene gets to the crux of the whole show (IMHO), which is to echo/paraphrase Michael and say that one of the central questions of what it means to be a human is in asking the question, “What is it that we owe each other?”

Look, I’m no philosopher, but I do know that determining what the next right thing is (h/t Glennon Doyle again!) can be extraordinarily difficult. Especially in this time of constant division and hate we find ourselves in. Especially when we are hurt or scared or sad or angry. Especially when a situation is complicated (and what situation isn’t?!?). Especially when we feel alone in our efforts, or, even worse, feel as if we are actually pushed back against. Especially when we feel as if doing good is an uphill battle that might never actually pay off, making us wonder why it really matters in the first place.

Because does it? Really matter?

Every day it seems we tilt closer to complete chaos. Every day it seems another child has been lost to abuse or neglect. Another relationship has shattered. Another salacious news cycle has distracted us from the things that really deserve our attention. Another horrible thing has happened, somehow and somewhere to someone or some many people who do not deserve it, did not ask for it, and have had their lives irrevocably changed by it.

And how we find our way forward in the midst of all this is some days more than I have the brain power or soul energy to determine. 

I had a long conversation last night with one of my most favorite and most trusted people in the world–one of those conversations that happens when you least expect it but that makes all the difference after it’s been had. And part of what we talked about is how it can so often seem as if the good guys never win. As if it is only the selfish and the power-hungry and manipulative and the downright awful folks that somehow rise to the top, at least from an outside perspective.

We talked, too, about the long road from heartache to some form of recovery and hope again–and how it can be so difficult to believe that happiness and joy might be yours again when so much has been lost or destroyed and you feel so very broken.

And, we talked about how knowing that someone has your back, that you are not alone, is maybe the best thing of all, the most helpful thing, when it comes to making the journey forward, even if you have to be dragged along by that person, scruff-of-your-neck style.

As we talked, I thought about a couple of things to which I hold fast and true. The first is that I really do believe most people are good (yep, just like Luke Bryan sings). And the second, of course, is that I believe we are never alone (yep, just like Liverpool FC fans scream-sing at every game and Rodgers and Hammerstein fans know by heart).

And, this, I believe, is what we owe each other–the willingness to search for the goodness inherent to our humanity and the commitment to being with one another on the journey. 

Not because anyone is keeping score (keeping score in relationships is never a winning strategy). Not because there is some actual debt on account that must be paid by a certain date. Not because there’s an actual moral dessert at stake…but because, good Lord, y’all…we are in this together.

How many times must we hear this before we get it?

We. Are. In. This. Together. 

And when we forget that–when we retreat into ideological tribes or our social media snark and supposed hot takes or our silos of individual experience–we fail…we utterly fail..at being the human beings we were created to be.

You  may not feel, and perhaps even with good reason, that you owe the world anything at all. Perhaps this world has been very cruel to you, as it has to many people. You may not feel as if you have anything to offer anyway, so why bother. You may not feel as if your life is one that matters at all in the great scheme of things…especially when that great scheme so often seems so very, very wrong.

But what I believe, even if some days more than others, is that what we owe each other our is lives, lived together on this madly spinning planet as best we can.

And if we could re-frame how we live and move and have being in light of that, it  would be, in fact, the very best game-changer of all. 






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