Sometimes it takes seeing things from a different perspective to appreciate what we have. Sometimes we need to see our own lives through the eyes of someone else. This happened to me years ago when I was talking to a friend of mine on the phone. I told him that I was engaged and would soon be remarried. When I shared this news with my friend, instead of being happy for me, he became very angry with me. He told me off and we never spoke again before he died about a year later.
Why was my friend so upset with me?
Well, because he had never been married. For all I know, he had never even dated. He told me how unfair he thought it was that I had one failed marriage and was already working on the second one, while he remained hopelessly single. Nothing I said to him seemed to make him feel better so I let it go.
I think about my friend sometimes when my life seems a little difficult. I try to see my life through his eyes and to appreciate better what I have.
You know, as Americans, we have so much and we actually appreciate very little of it. I remember reading Louis Armstrong’s autobiography and learning the answer to the question “how poor is poor?” He told the story about how every once in a while, for a special treat, his mom would send him down to the harbor with a dime to buy a bucket of fish heads. She would make soup or something with the disgusting stuff that we typically throw away. Most of us today couldn’t imagine a meal of fish heads, and for that to be their special treat? Wow, now we’re talking poor!
I also remember a story my ex-wife’s mother told me about the women she hired to help with the house work. Now, the place my ex-mother-in-law lives in is not like a mansion or anything fancy like that. It’s a modest duplex. But she hired some women from across the border because she wanted to help them out. One day when they were working, one of the women told the other (in Spanish), “I can’t believe people actually live like this.”
When you look across the border from El Paso, you see entire communities that look much like the townships in South Africa. Actually, back when I lived in El Paso, the community across the Rio Grande from U.T.E.P. was more poverty stricken than the townships I saw when I was in South Africa. Imagine an entire community of cardboard huts!
So yeah, when you hire someone who lives in a cardboard hut to work in your house, I could see how they might gawk in wonderment about the typical American’s lifestyle. As Americans, we have so much stuff and yet we are some of the most unhappy people in the world.
I am a big fan of Mother Teresa, and I remember reading about Americans who would leave their families to serve in her ministry, only for her to tell them to go back home. She told them that the poverty of the third world countries is economical, but the poverty of the USA is emotional (I’m paraphrasing this). She told them to go back home to be present in the lives of their families and stop contributing to the emotional poverty of our country.
This Thanks Giving, I encourage people to take a step back and look at what you have to be thankful for through the eyes of those who have so very little. My friend was right. I am a very fortunate man for having Pearl in my life and I understand that there are many people who never have that opportunity to enjoy the experience of sharing life with a loving spouse.
I have so very much to be thankful for and I praise God for His love, His grace, and all that He has provided for me and my family during my lifetime.