Avoiding the daily grind

Richard E. Worrell is a Woodland writer and artist who works as an environmental analyst for the state

I was asked the other day why I keep a meat grinder at work. It’s a small, antique, hand-cranked, “American made,” cast-iron kitchen tool with a well-worn wooden handle that I scored for a few dollars from an antiques shop in Woodland. It’s fully functional, and although I’ve never used it to grind meat, it’s in my office for a reason. It’s a reminder.

In my life, I’ve been inspired by visionaries and their words of wisdom: men and women who have seen the wrongs in society and had the opportunity to turn away, but instead chose to demonstrate goodwill and constructively make a difference. These were leaders whose deeds contributed to remedying the needs and conditions they saw, either via the written word, or in the shining example of their lives.

There are many, but two in particular immediately come to mind: Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert F. Kennedy. In essence, these individuals extolled the merits of egalitarian vision and daily acts. They inspire us to do deeds of goodness, to remember that we are brothers and sisters on this planet essentially seeking the same basic fulfillment during this all-too-short journey we know as life.

Learning from them, we can measure success by knowing that, at the end of the day, when the opportunity arose to make a difference, we took the time to help someone in need. What could be more noble than having a daily goal to act on each presented opportunity to ensure that others’ lives have been at least a little better because we have lived—that we have given to others where and when we could? Whether manifested as a lovingly attended garden, a smile to a stranger, or forgiveness for an incidental slight, there is no detriment to doing good, only in forgetting to do so.

The alternative experience is represented by the meat grinder. When we’re presented the opportunity to make a difference, at the end of the day, someone’s experience of us might be akin to feeling as though they’ve been stuffed into a meat grinder.

It’s a daily choice: good or the alternative.

What seems more bewildering than anything is how almost compulsively some individuals seemingly strive to earn that nefarious Meat Grinder Award, which ultimately proves their due.