As a child growing up in India there was an expression that frequently ended a sentence – “…what to do?” I do not recall that anyone using the words was actually asking a question. It was said and heard in a way that expressed situation where there was no obvious choice. Whatever happened may have been the best choice in a difficult situation, and the person now retelling the story was expressing that s/he had no idea what was would have been better.
As I look back, I am thankful for the gift of this expression. There are several consequences, most unintended that followed.
I grew up hearing adults acknowledge that s/he did not always know what to do. In contrast to the mythology that adults always knew best, I had models that frequently ended a story with a “Oh my, what to do?”
Even as my childhood was defined by black and white theology, I lived in a society where many problems defied description much less solutions. With the freedom to use this expression, I grew up knowing that life was frequently beyond my comprehension. The freedom opened doors of choice, thinking, and reflection – rare gifts for the young.
Using the expression once did not mean that one was done with it. There was an arrogance presented by some of my early teachers. They seemed to know everything, if not the first time then for sure by the second. My mom used to always use the expression with a smile and laughter. She told me Life was always greater than the arrogance around us.
Not everyone listened. They seemed “deaf to threats, deaf to charm, decades of wax built up in their ears.” (Psalm 58.5) At times I was part of everyone. While it seemed comforting to know, the assurance never lasts. Life reminds me that there are no easy answers to conundrums. Letting the question “what to do” end a story opens a door for divine whispers. I heard the words and a smile formed. Thanks Mom for the lessons and the smiles.