Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving pt 1 Things To Be Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Ok, we're in a depression and things aren't really all that great. There's no money to buy stuff, people are out of work, CEO's of some of the Big Corporations are ripping tax money off of the workers while maintaining their life-styles. They come in private jets, wearing costly apparel and want Congress to bail them out. They were paid to run these corporations for a profit and raided them instead. They take home multi-million dollar salaries + bonuses and then the tax-payer is getting to bail out the now bankrupt business while these parasites get to continue "running" the company. People are being hateful to one another. Beating up little old people who disagree with you is now ok in some quarters. Judges can just throw out laws or reinterpret the Constitution any way they want and it seems "We the People" have no more say in what's happening. In other words, there seems to be plenty to dispare about. Or is there?

One of the best things to do is to count how much you do have instead of focusing on what you don't have. I'm glad we have a special day that encourages us to think of all that we have been blessed with. It doesn't meant that the jobless will have a job tomorrow or any of the other ills of the day are magically "gone", just that things really could be worse for us.

I was a missionary in Colombia, S.A. Needless to say, when my kids were young and wanted to complain about what they didn't have, I would tell them stories of the people and children that I met there. Children who ate food thrown out because it was too rotten to sell, who would pick it up out of the pathways and eat it-after people had stepped on it. Children sleeping outside in the open, huddled together like little puppies, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts, a holey sweater and wet crochet shoes. Me? I was wearing a coat and a sweater and the wind was still blowing through me - it was COLD outside. The two little boys were about 6 and 8 years old. Their mom was probably a prostitute and they were sent outside to be away from her "work". How about the old lady at the market who was picking up rice grains out of the dirt where they had fallen from the rice seller's table. That rice was free - it was all she could "afford". And on the stories go.

Now do we feel grateful? Grateful for clean, parasite free water. Grateful for an abundance of clean, parasite free food. For the ability to go where ever we want without having to carry special papers from the government and without having to check in with the local police upon arrival.

How about the closet full of clothing we have. I knew 4 brothers that were in such dire straits that they only had one pair of pants among them. Only one could leave the house to look for work or go to school. So each day, they had a turn to wear the pants. They were 18-24 years of age and their parents had died. There was no safety net under them. No where to turn except to each other. And one pair of pants to allow them to gain the money they needed for food and rent.

How about the spaciousness of our homes. Yes, even a tiny 14"x40" trailer that held 4 people, 3 of which were under the age of 6 - and all their stuff. Baby beds, swing, baby carrier, toys, etc. Friends of mine in Florencia, Caqueta, Colombia had an room that may have been as large as 8'x10'. It had a cement floor. It held two twin beds and a small table upon which was the Coleman stove they used for cooking. There was no bathroom or running water in their "home". They had to go outside to a makeshift bathroom and a public faucet. There were 7 of them, the youngest was 8 years old. They all went to work each day. There was no schooling for the kids - even the "free" schools cost money. And how do 7 people sleep on two twin beds? I have no idea.

Family member passed away recently and you're feeling blue? How would it have been to have had to dig their grave. While digging their grave, you'd throw out the bones of the people who had been buried there before; knowing full well that in the not too distant future, someone would disinter your loved one. This is not done out of disrespect, but out of poverty and lack of approved burial space.

I own a 1986 car - hey, that's older than my oldest child. It runs. That's about all I can say about it. But that's what I CAN say about it. It DOES run. I had friends that had a bike. They went everywhere on the bike. All FOUR of them. And there are MOUNTAINS in Colombia. Dad stood and petaled. Teen daughter rode the handle bars, school-aged son rode on the front cross-bar, Mom rode side-saddle on the seat. (I even saw one family that dad had another child sitting around his neck while the rest of the family rode as my friends did. Wouldn't they have loved my old car? You bet!

How about freedom of worship? When I was in Florencia there was artillery fire in the mountains every day. The guerrillas that were at war with the government in that area had heavy artillery and it really was a war zone. While there, I befriended a family whom were members of my church. By their standards, they were solid middle class, but by our standards they were a very poor family. They had two books, one a Bible, the other a Book of Mormon. That's all the books in the tiny house. The children love to read the scriptures so I promised the children their own copy of the Book of Mormon if they learned the Articles of Faith (13 statements, a condensing if you will, of the main points of what we believe). At the time, the oldest boy was 10. Every day, when they got home from school, they would sit in front of the TV. During commercials, the oldest-Boris, would drill his younger siblings. Four years after I had left the area and was home, I heard that Boris had been execute by the guerrillas. His "crime" - he was a member of an "American" church. Which is interesting since we have more people in our church who speak Spanish than English!

We have the privilege of being able to go where we want, say what we want, be whomever we want to be. We have nice homes; clean,running water; the ability to heat and cool our homes. We don't have to get the government's permission to move; change jobs; nor do we have our loved ones killed if we vocally disagree with what our government does. We have multiple changes of clothing, a variety of foods to eat. Nice cars and we don't have to bribe judges, doctors or the government for our lives.

Is this country perfect. No, we have our share of problems. Are there hungry people in the U.S.? Yes. Are too many people homeless? Yes. Do we have places that rival 3rd world countries right here at home? In comparatively small places, it might seem that way. That is, unless you've been to the bad sections of 3rd world countries.

There are some places in Colombia, right in Bogotá (their capitol similar to our DC), that stretch for miles that is nothing but bombed out rubble. It's left-over from the violence of the 1950's. It is such a violent section that the Post Office, Garbage collectors, Doctors, Hospitals, Fire Dept, Police, not even the ARMY will enter that area. The "tallest" structure looks to be about 5'high. Yes, 5 FEET high, and nothing but RUBBLE. Nothing standing, just broken bits and pieces of what was once buildings all fallen in on itself. People live in that rubble like rats in crawlspaces. And there are TENS of THOUSANDS living there. Or rather, squatting there. I've been all over the US and have lived most of my life in the South. I've been in the Appalachian area and seen its poverty. But mostly, our poorest people have more than the "middle class" in many poor countries have; more than the "rich" in some countries have. Even in my "poverty" and I make WELL below the poverty rate, I am richer than most of the people who live in Colombia. In fact, richer than most of the people who live in the underdeveloped countries in the world.

Our challenge today and everyday is to look at what we have, where we live and be grateful that which we are blessed with. It's not a crime to want to better ourselves, in fact, it's good to want to do better in life. But not at the expense of our families or those around us. Not to the point that we are angry, disappointed or depressed with what we perceive we have been "cheated" from having. Those whom become like this are generally bears to be around - cross, cranky, surly, and mean-spirited. Do we want to be like that? Do we want to drive off family and friends? All it takes is changing our point of view. Change from ingratitude to gratitude and watch life become joyful again!

Are we looking at all we do have and feeling more thankful? I know I am.

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