I have a question for you: Do you ever think about how blessed/lucky we are to live the way we do?
Earlier this Fall, I drove past an older woman kneeling down in her yard pulling weeds from her flower beds. I looked up at the sky and thought about what a perfect day it was to do so. The sun was shining without a cloud in sight, the temperatures were in the upper 60s, and the breeze was light. Life felt calm. I felt peaceful. And I knew the woman weeding probably did too.
And then I had a realization: How blessed are we to live in a place that allows us to spend our afternoon simply pulling weeds?
There are people living underneath the same sky and being warmed by the same sun, hearts beating in the same rhythm as mine, that spend their afternoons fetching contaminated water for their family to drink and bathe in.
There are people who smile as big as I do when woken up by the cuddles of their babies, and whose hearts drop when they see their kids hurt. But they’re forced to leave their children for months on end in an effort to find work and send money home.
There are loving, kind, hard-working people who shelter their entire family in one-room buildings with cracked walls, dirt floors, and leaky roofs. And these people? They have more than some of their neighbors.
These people are no different than me – no less worthy or deserving. They deserve what I have: Safety. Health. Opportunity. An income. A voice. A fighting chance. But they don’t get that.
Okay, okay, so maybe you’re thinking that you’ve heard this bit before. Living in a third-world or war-torn country, or on the streets of whatever city you live in, would suck and you should be thankful. But have you ever really spent time reflecting on how blessed you are compared to others who inhabit this same Earth? Or are you, like many others and myself, so distracted by your routines and to-do lists that you fail to see beyond the walls of your own perceptions?
I can speak for myself when I say that I don’t have to spend my afternoon watching my siblings suffer from lice and mites, or watching my family struggle with malnutrition because the gardens aren’t producing enough crop to feed everyone. I am abundantly blessed.
Floods? Very scary and potentially costly, but I can go to higher grounds to stay out of harm’s way. I don’t have to worry about my livestock – my families’ food and only source of income – floating away along with my shelter. I am so safe.
I don’t have to hide my books, concede to male authoritarianism, or worry about harboring a faith in God that differs from my country’s ruler. I am independent and honored as a human being.
I am blessed. I get to work outside of the home as a woman, oppose a man’s views, wear what I want without the fear of imprisonment or death, and shop at the grocery store for clean and fresh food. I get to snuggle up in a blanket with hot tea while I listen to the rain pour down my windows. I get notified via email by my daughter’s teacher if there is a case of lice in the class, and can take a 10-minute trip to my local pharmacy for treatment.
I can spend my day pulling weeds, or reading, or drawing, or binge-watching Netflix (the latter is the most likely, shhh!). I can spend my afternoon doing something purely for my own pleasure, based on my mood entirely. This is mind-boggling, yet I rarely even think about it.
I saw the woman pulling weeds, but I also saw so much more: my privilege. In my all-wheel-drive crossover, in a safe neighborhood on paved streets, I realized what we need.
What We Need
We need perspective. We need to see the reality of our situations. We need to practice gratitude for all that we have. We’ve grown so accustomed to our blessings and rights that we actually believe our inconveniences and struggles are unbearable.
Traffic from road construction? Higher tax bill because of a new school referendum passing in your city? Spotty cell phone coverage? Have to shovel your sidewalks and driveway? Long line at the bank? Slow wi-fi that infuriates you? You fill in the blank with your frustrations, and then remind yourself that despite all of the inconveniences you experience, you are BLESSED. We have a life of so much luxury but still focus on all that we don’t have. We need to expand our minds and remind ourselves that life exists beyond our backyard!
Gratitude, when truly possessed, leads to a happiness and love for life that few ever experience. When you learn to shift your focus to everything that you do have in life, you develop a desire to pass on your blessings to those less fortunate. The love and gratitude you have for your own life quite literally overflows onto everyone else around you.
There is no telling why I was born into a life of many blessings, when another mommy of a 7-year-old girl across the world was born without her basic needs for survival being met. But I don’t have to take it for granted, and you don’t have to take your blessings for granted either.
You don’t have to go on a mission trip tomorrow (although if you want to, invite me!), but I ask you to use your privilege for good. Donate food to your local food pantry. Drop off a wrapped toy at a Toys for Tots drop-off location. Send $15 to a charity of your choice. Gather your old clothes and drop off them off at a homeless shelter. Sponsor a child’s education in Uganda. Honor the life God gave you. Spread love and stop complaining. Let’s all be better together!
Don’t get me wrong, there is suffering in this country that no person should have to endure. It’s not as easy as saying, “Well you have rights, live life and stop complaining.” But it’s the majority of us who are safe, protected, loved, and who have opportunity, that develop a warped view of our lives.}