Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Grateful For What We Have Been Given

Pondering during the Christmas season....

Many are burdened with economic worries. Certainly, we are! The way of life to which we are all are accustomed seems at times to be teeter-tottering on a precipice.

Then I put things in "historical perspective." It doesn't really make me feel better; I like the life I have; it's the only way of living I have ever known.

But just put it in historical perspective for a moment: We the People of the United States...are by far the richest human beings who have ever lived in the history of the human race!

Look at this house I live in, this house that is "much too small" for our family. Ha ha ha! Emperors in all their glory had nothing like the power that is accessible to me at the flick of a finger. I command the light, the water, and even the air temperature of my dwelling. I have two blazing chariots ("used clunkers," but they still go), that can take me all over, so that I am master of my realm.

What nobleman, what lord, what king, what rich smug capitalist from a hundred years ago can say what the average middle class American can still say today, namely, that with a computer, a credit card, and an airline ticketing website, we can travel anywhere we want on this planet within seventy two hours. Decide now? We can be there in three days.

Are we not, materially speaking, the richest and most powerful people who have ever lived?

My little house has magical gadgets that never occurred to Kubla Khan in his wildest dreams of Xanadu. Here, right now, I am sitting in front of the glittering computer square that can make the space between me and anywhere else in the world evaporate.

Louis XIV? Bah! He would have envied my bathroom.

So what is my point? Many in the world today live without what we commonly consider "necessities." 200 years ago no one lived with anything like the material comfort that we possess. We are uniquely blessed.

I don't want to deny that Americans have difficulties. Some of our difficulties are fundamental, and it cannot be denied that the vast power we possess has also created new problems that our ancestors never had to bear. Still, many of us are struggling to manage our blessings. My own "tiny" home, with its five rapidly growing children and creative sleeping arrangements, would be considered "poor" by many Americans. It is sustained economically by whatever two professional educators can scrape together. But by any comparison with the general lot of the human race down through the centuries, we live in astonishing comfort and convenience.

What does it all mean? How are we meant to live in the midst of all these blessings? How can they serve as a foundation for building ourselves up as persons and as a family, for constructive action in our community, and for sharing our gifts and the human possibilities they create with a world that has drawn much closer to us?

I know I can begin with gratitude and wonder. I thank God, and everyone who has made possible the remarkable life that I am living, and I pray that I might find within it the opportunities to build the human dimension of that life.