I decided this year to add two more lavender shrubs to the garden. I found myself standing in front of two long bench tables at one of my favourite nurseries looking at a rather large display of various lavenders. Each variety stood in its own row of specimens. Choosing the variety I wanted, and then selecting the best specimen, was going to take much longer than the time I had allocated to do so. I left the colourful and fragrant display very impressed but knowing that I needed much more time to choose the bush I was looking for.
The choosing of a lavender shrub seemed rather insignificant in the light of the Euro Vote that was one week away. When we consider the importance of the Euro Vote, the lead up to it and the aftermath, dependent on which way the country voted, we cannot doubt that we were given the opportunity to make a reasonably informed choice.
I have come to realise how important choosing is in everyday life. We get up in the morning (even the time we do that is choice) and then the choosing begins. We have already chosen our brand of toothbrush, cleansing products, hairstyle and no doubt what we are going to eat for breakfast, dinner and tea. Our wardrobe is full of our choice of clothes to suit every occasion. Our working hours may well have been allocated by our boss but our means of commuting to work is our choice. We chose where to live, where to go on holiday, who to have as friends. So the choices go on; some we make without even thinking. Sometimes we need to do some research before we make our final choice, for instance, which house or car to buy, which school to send the children to. We may be consulted about choices that others make. For example, when our teenager chooses which university to apply for, or a job or career change comes up.
Choices can be painful too. The prospects for the care of an elderly relative, facing the future with a terminal illness or disability or the loneliness after a divorce or bereavement may well demand choices which are not only life changing but difficult to make. There may be many thoughtful, caring people who will offer to ‘be there for you’, ‘you just have to say’. It is so good to be surrounded with love and good intentions but at the end of the day we have to make our own choices.
The consequences of whatever way we chose to vote in the European referendum was made clear to the electorate. Whatever choices we make in life have their consequences. If we neglect to brush our teeth regularly we could well have tooth decay. Choosing not to study risks failure. Hasty choices can lead to making mistakes. If we get it wrong other people can become disillusioned or get hurt. Sometimes we know that we have made the right choice but we cave in when we are put in the firing line, sometimes by well-intentioned people. We might even regret our choice and try to reverse it but without success when the choice made was irreversible.
Today, three weeks after my initial visit, I returned to the nursery to choose the lavender I wanted. I was so disappointed when I found a much-depleted display and far fewer varieties to choose from. What a shame that I had not given myself enough time to choose what I wanted on my first visit. Sometimes we are not given another chance when we miss our first opportunity. Choices and life go hand in hand. They belong to each other. Which lavender I choose is hardly life-changing but many decisions are – for us and for others. May we learn to choose carefully, taking the long-term view, so that the results of what we decide will be a lasting influence for good.