November 18, 2014

Gratitude Realized....

As I sit in my favorite Bible study chair, tucked in with my fuzzy red blanket, holding a warm cup of coffee in my hand (in my sweet snowman mug) and looking at the Christmas lights and tree lit up in my living room I feel a complete sense of warmth, safety, and joy. I can hear the hum of the refrigerator, the purring of the cats, the chirping of the birds outside on the rose bushes. What a sweet and simple life. That means I have a comfortable and safe home. That means I have fresh food, and electricity for the appliances to work. That means I have furniture, warm clothes and blankets, and the delight of holiday decorations surrounding me. But in this same moment, a sadness overtook me. I started thinking not of all the things I have, but of all of the things others do not…and the things I do, use, and have every single day that I often do not acknowledge or give God gratitude for. Let’s think about a few things that we consider simple and “everyday normalcies” that many do not have this holiday season…or in any of their days:

*A home to stay out of the cold or heat (regardless of how hard we have to work for it)

*A job to pay the bills (regardless of how much we may not enjoy it)

*Electricity to make food and keep our surroundings comfortable (regardless if it goes out sometimes)

*Food in the refrigerator and pantry to keep us nourished (regardless how unhealthy our choices may be, or how mundane our meals seem)

*Clothes to keep us protected when we are outside (regardless if they are last season or may have a stain or two on them)

*Animals to keep us company and make us feel needed (regardless how much we sometimes complain about having to care for and feed them)

*Furniture to sit and be comfortable on (regardless the fact that they may be in slip covers and have seen better days)

*Decorations to bring us cheer and brighten our mood (regardless if we complain about having to put it all away afterwards)

So many people do not have even the least of these. Some people are sleeping on streets or on dirt floors. They are out in the elements of extreme heat, or dangerously cold temperatures. They have no work and cannot find any, so even the simplest thing like electricity or running water is something that is not available to them. Tummies are grumbling and prayers are being said for something as simple as a glass of water and piece of bread, while we are out at fine restaurants or convenient drive-thru eating locations enjoying lattes and bacon burgers. Some have no shoes and their feet are covered in sores and bleeding from the cracks, causing them extreme pain. They have nothing but tattered rags to suffice as covering and comfort. And the only semblance of the holidays they know is walking down an alley or street and catching a glimpse of lights and wreaths and bows as they dumpster dive for discarded clothing or food. Some do not even have dumpsters to scavenger through, and have never seen a holiday decoration in their lives.

When I think of this, as I am in my recliner, typing on my MacBook Air, and sipping Americano with fresh spun honey in my 72 degree living room, finishing up a full day of work with my fuzzy socks and favorite shirt on, with the beautiful tree of lights in the corner and the front door locked safely, my truck in the driveway, tank full of gas, PO Box full of mail and books and things I have ordered for my home and sheer enjoyment…I feel overwhelmingly grateful, but overwhelmingly guilty as well. Don’t get me wrong, my life is not wonderfully rich in material things and comfort. I am a single mother working two jobs. I live very simply and it takes all I have to manage everything and keep the bills paid each month. But how hard do I have it really…when we look at the big picture? Is what I am going through really as much of a struggle as I make it out to be and do I still have ways I can find to give back, even in my present circumstances? If I am honest, yes. We may not want to, because that would make us less comfortable or it would make next week or next month less secure for our family. But on the other hand, doesn’t God say when we give to the least of these, we will reap rewards, be blessed, and store up treasures in heaven? When we help others, we help ourselves. We learn compassion, unconditional love, sacrifice, and kindness.

Do we think daily to give up just one thing, one comfort, one available item for purchase in order to save that money up and each month give what we can to someone in need? Do we have items sitting around our house or garage that have been there forever and are never used that we can bless someone else with who may genuinely need them? Or do we just continually thank God for all we have (overlooking most of the big things and virtually all of the small things) and hope that we don’t lose our comforts while continuing to seek out more for ourselves? During this season of gratitude and thankfulness, may we stop and take a moment to look at our surroundings and realize how fortunate we are and ask God to show us a way we can reach out to someone else and give them a blessing that they can feel gratitude and thankfulness for. Not asking anything in return, just simply giving some of the excess that we have to someone who genuinely has nothing but a smile or teardrop of appreciation to give back to us. No matter how dire some of us think our financial or physical situation is, if we look hard enough…really look…I guarantee we can find some way to bless another life and soul not just this holiday season, but every month of every year. May we love, appreciate, and give as Jesus did, does, and always will…all the time.