I’ve been thinking about how we store the things we need, hold onto them, and balance the books.

The much-needed rain made for a wet, cold winter here, by our wimpy Bay Area standards. The moisture really does seep into the bones! I realize that will sound unpersuasive to those who have been shoveling snow, but anyway I was looking forward to our Spring Break in Mexico: warmth, beach and pool, and a week off from work and daily life.

The trip was great. No required tasks beyond laying around next to water and the occasional zipline, and it was hot! The lows at night were 5 to 10 degrees higher than our current Bay Area highs. Even in summer at home it’s rare to have an that doesn’t require a light jacket, so true t-shirt weather is a novel pleasure. The memories of the chill back home made the heat easier to take.

Then when we were back, I was ready for the cool. It’s like my body or imagination stored up some of that sun, and it kept me warm. My tank was full.

In the last few years, stories friends have told me have me thinking about how lucky I was in my upbringing: both my parents, whatever their flaws, were fundamentally warm and decent and watching out for me. I grew up, and launched into the world, with a pretty full tank. I was insecure and timid, but had a solid reserve of love and care that has eased my way. And the luck to meet many kind and good people who helped keep that goodwill stocked and in decent supply.

I recently read The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. It’s a fun yarn about a 50’s road trip run amok, with nods to The Odyssey and Zeno’s Arrow (first you have to get halfway, then another half, ad infinitem, so in theory you can never arrive). Through these “infinitely bisected” voyages the novel explores the paths we take and life’s luck (or lack of). Some of the characters are focused on how we settle scores and balance the books. Does my past wrong mean you get to punch me on the nose once, or twice? Will that make us even? If my friend steals my car, but breaks into an orphanage to bring his former bunkmates some strawberry preserves, how do we calculate who’s owed, and what? More fundamentally the book asks how do we decide what to forgive.

Being a recipient of such good luck, I think about our kids. I fear there will always be a hole there where they lost their birth parents, and got a raw deal early in life. Can we make up for it with beach vacations? With kindness and decency? Probably not fully, but we can try to even the scales, to bank the goodness of being fed, fussed at, cared for, so that hopefully they’ve got some good energy to launch them into the world when that time comes. May they are able to forgive some of the debts of our shortcomings and those of others.

I’m increasingly sure that forgiveness is key. As a bonus, offering grace to others also fills up our tanks.

With so much unpleasant news in the world I’ve been drawn to those trying to have a kinder conversation. I was touched by something Ezra Klein wrote in the NYTimes, about the question of whether the bankers or the clients are idiots in the banking meltdown, “Here’s a more generous interpretation: Change makes fools of us all. And we’re living in a time of change.”

Here’s to all being fools, doing our best, forgiving everyone we can, and stocking up on any grace that will help us on our way.