I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude lately. Mostly because I have so much I’m thankful for. We just bought a house and it’s beautiful and we love it. We’re lucky to have it (we were able to buy it at a price much lower than it’s worth), but sometimes I find myself thinking “Why me? Why do I get this lovely, big house to live in when others have so little?” Some people have said “You guys deserve it!” and part of me thinks, “Yeah, we’re hard workers, we do deserve it!” But then I’m reminded of all the people I know in this country and across the world, who have to work much harder than we do just to survive.
I guess I have a hard time wrapping my mind around our society’s sense of entitlement. Our corrupted version of the American Dream seems to be “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of more Stuff”. There’s no room for Happiness if all we can think about is climbing the social ladder, getting bigger houses, bigger cars, and just having MORE.
“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
I’m not saying having nice things is bad, unless it’s what drives us. Unless our consumerism and accumulation is edging toward gluttony. Unless we justify our constant pursuit of stuff with, “I deserve it”.
I’m also not putting down people in a position of privilege, I consider myself to be privileged. I’m just acutely aware that those of us in this position have so much responsibility. Obviously, to help those less privileged, but also to remain humble and grateful.
“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.”
I’ve been thinking about gratitude recently because I’ve been reading the news. It feels like our world is in chaos. I was camping last week and enjoying swimming and floating a beautiful river with my family, but I couldn’t completely shake the sadness in my heart, nor did I want to. I think part of this life of privilege comes with a duty to be informed, to look at the terrible images of children dying, people being attacked because of their race or beliefs, planes shot out of the sky…and to feel something, and then do something. It’s not about politics, it’s about being human.
“The greater the privilege, the greater the responsibilities and sacrifices.”
-Martin Luther King Jr
We can practice our beliefs without fear.
We have access to good health care.
I’m thankful for the clean drinking water we have. From a tap. In our house.
It’s humbling to see that short list and know the majority of the world could not write the same things. It can be overwhelming to realize how much of a responsibility I have to the world. Sometimes I don’t know where to start and I begin to feel helpless. What can I do to affect this world of chaos?
I can teach my children to value every human life and show them ways to care for others.
I understand that there are bigger issues than most of my day to day inconveniences.
I believe that I have a voice and can speak up when I see injustice.
I teach my girls they have a voice and not be afraid to use it.
I can research ways to volunteer or donate money to help others.
My new home will be a place of peace, building relationships and extending love to those who enter.
And I pray. Sometimes this is the hardest. At times I have no words to pray for the horrors people are experiencing. Today I remembered Romans 8:26 -
…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
This is how I pray today: For strength to do all these things I believe in, to give thanks, and when words fail, to trust God sees my heart, he sees the state of our world and he cares.
When your heart aches for a world in pain, embrace that ache, it’s called Empathy. We need it to retain our humanity. Hold your dear ones closer, lay aside grievances and just love. Love is what makes life worth living. Hold your possessions in an open hand and give thanks. Gratitude precedes altruism.
“Wealth is not to feed our egos but to feed the hungry and to help people help themselves.” -Andrew Carnegie