Choice. Picking one thing over another. The freedom to make such a decision is generally a good thing. But it can be bewildering, as well.
Consider the kid in the picture. If you placed two pumpkins in front of him and asked him to pick one, he could probably do it within seconds. But put him a field with a few hundred very similar-looking pumpkins and the decision is likely to take quite a bit longer. Then, even after the decision is made, there may be a bit of second-guessing.
Iowans are facing a similar situation as they sort through a large field of candidates in the presidential caucuses this week. But this isn’t a post about politics, it’s about choices. The caucuses are just an example of how making choices is becoming increasingly difficult in our lives today.
When I was a youngster, every house that had a phone had a black one. The phone company owned it; the customer rented it. Henry Ford was famously known for saying a buyer of his cars “can have any color he wants so long as it’s black.”
Phones and cars aren’t the only commodities that have changed. Bought a health care plan lately? Or one of those gussied-up Medicare options? How about wedding photos? There was a time when a wedding photographer presented a few dozen of the best shots in an album to select from. Now they put hundreds up on a web site. Is this an improvement, searching through all those similar, out-of-focus, off-center photos? The consumer too often shoulders the load of the decision-making process these days.
I do much of my grocery shopping at a small Iowa chain called Fareway, largely because it’s small. I don’t have to make as many choices and can pretty much zip through it in a half hour or less. If I had to stop and compare the 30 types of peanut butter or hundreds of cereals they have in a mega-market, I couldn’t do that. Plus, Fareway has better prices, doesn’t drown its fresh vegetables with those abominable sprayers and has a full-service meat counter.
As complicated as the choices have become, it still boils down to one thing: you have to decide. Whether picking a jar of peanut butter or selecting a mate, the final choice is yours.
Think back on the big decisions you’ve made in your lifetime. What were the options you had at the time? Were you satisfied with the results? What did you learn from the experience? What’s the lesson you want to share with your descendants?