Are You Comfortable?

Comfortable sofa

by Steve Buschbacher

Are you comfortable? Right now, the way you’re sitting or standing or lying down, are you comfortable? If not, do you adjust your position until you are comfortable? Do you ever look at others and wonder “How can THAT be comfortable?” It’s a personal thing, isn’t it? You make a choice based on what is right for you and others do the same.

I am comfortable in hot weather and others in cool or cold weather. Those of us in more temperate winter weather regions (southeastern Pennsylvania for me) can wonder how folks in Minneapolis get by every year with day after day of sub-zero temperatures. But they do. It’s what they’re used to and some even like it. It’s a trade-off for the advantages of living there. I have friends in Florida who wonder how we ever get through winters in Philadelphia. But we do.

When I was a kid, we used to go to northern Wisconsin every summer on a fishing trip. After a while, as I got older, I started noticing how the people lived there. The closest town was very small. I couldn’t imagine living there. No baseball … no buses … no L trains. What did they DO? My father told me that they fished and hunted as often as they could or at least as often as the law allowed. I could not imagine fishing or hunting that much. My father explained that, for many of the people living in the area, that was the only meat they could afford and it had to last them all winter. Yet they seemed comfortable. They seemed OK with their lives even though I knew that I would not survive one month. I learned that I had no business criticizing the way someone lived unless I had experienced that life first hand.

I recently moved to Philadelphia from Chicago. How can people live here without Italian beef? How can they be OK with putting catsup on hotdogs? How can they be OK with two way streets barely wide enough for one car? How can they be OK with having to walk their garbage bins to the curb the night before garbage pickup day? (very few alleys here, you see) The answer is that we are all comfortable (or, at least OK) with what has become a normal occurrence for us. For most of my neighbors, this is how it has always been.

Are you comfortable where you live? Do you feel safe in your city and in your neighborhood? Do you believe that, if you were a witness to a crime that you would speak up to help in getting the offender to face justice? Do you ever wonder why people living in poorer areas (you know … “those people down there”) don’t do the same thing? Do you have a gang in your neighborhood? A gang so powerful and far-reaching that you or family members would face lethal retaliation for testifying against them?

Do you get the idea that being comfortable is a truly personal choice and that unless you  experience what living in completely different surroundings is truly like, or what living in a different neighborhood everyday (not just visiting a work friend for a few hours) is like, that you have no business trying to suggest how anyone else should live their life? If you have only one lens through which to view the world, then you either need to be silent or you need to get an additional view.