The author of this guest post is Katie, who believes that she has experienced grace by knowing Jesus, trusting in Him as her ultimate hope. She is also a nurse and a mom who loves the orphaned, abandoned, and those looked down upon in our society.
Being Thankful When I’ve Never Been Without . . . clean water to drink, food to eat, clothes to wear, a place to live, medicine when I am sick, people who love me.
This time of year is when most of us start to think about others who have less than us, and in turn we then reflect on all that we have. It is has been different for me this year, because I have been very humbled by the thought that I am not very far away from being in need. What is the difference between people who have and those who have not?
Some say good or bad decisions, some say good or bad luck…I don’t know the answer. I do know that especially in this economy, many of us are one pink-slip away from losing all that keeps us comfortable. If my husband came home today and said he lost his job, we would be in bad shape. We would have to blow through our savings, move in with one of our parents, lose our home, probably only be able to keep one car. But, we would still be fed. Thank God we have families who are willing to take us in if we get to that point.
The thing that has been on my mind lately is, how can I truly be thankful for all that I have been given if I have never been without it? I don’t believe I have earned anything, I know all that I have is a gift from God. Everything from my health, to my marriage, to my children, to our home, to my husband’s good job that he loves, down to our cars that never break down, it is all a gift from God. How then, can I truly be grateful if I have never been without? Aren’t people who have lived through rough times so much more thankful for the good times?
I have a friend who shared a story with me about a class she took in college about urban missions. Her professor took the entire class to a homeless shelter to stay for a weekend, in the middle of February, somewhere in the cold Northeast, near the college they were attending. The first night, the shelter was full, so they couldn’t stay in the shelter, they had to sleep outside. They made a fire, but my friend said it was so cold she couldn’t even sleep. The next morning they woke up and went back to the shelter, because they heard that a local youth group was providing breakfast for the homeless shelter that day.
When they arrived, there was a note that said the youth group had instead decided to use the money they were going to use to make breakfast towards an amusement park trip they wanted to take that summer. There was no breakfast.
Pretty sad, isn’t it? Nothing wrong with wanting to go to an amusement park, but to choose your own entertainment over someone else’s meal is, well, just sad to me.
I don’t think I have to give everything away and live homeless to truly understand what it means to be grateful for all that has been given to me and to my family. I feel confident that being blessed means that I should use the resources God has given me to help others who are in need. This will help me to appreciate and truly be thankful for what I have.
Seeing the needs of others has a way of making you truly appreciate all that you do have, instead of focusing on what you don’t have or want.
Helping our Children Become Compassionate
I believe the same thing for my children. They need to know there are kids who don’t have warm coats to wear this winter. They need to understand that not every child gets new toys for Christmas. They need to grow up with the knowledge that they are so blessed to have a mommy and a daddy that love them, and that not every child has that.
Unfortunately, most American parents don’t like their children to have to think about unpleasant things like this. That is because they themselves don’t want to think about it. In this county especially, most parents are more concerned with what preschool their child is going to get into, than with exposing their children to the idea that there are others around them in need.
For my own children, my hope for them is that they grow up to be caring adults who love others more than they love themselves. If my children grow up to be average students, or average athletes, or average musicians, or average artists…that’s okay with me.
Average people can change the world
So what will you do to help yourself understand just how much you have? Think about the next time you buy groceries at the store, when you look in your wallet for money, or swipe your debit card…you know there is money there to pay for it. Think about the next time you open your refrigerator to make a sandwich, there is food there to make a sandwich. Think about the next time you turn on your faucet to drink water, you know it is clean to drink, it doesn’t have typhoid in it.
Take your children with you to the toy store to pick out some new toys for kids who won’t get any new toys for Christmas this year. When they ask why, explain to them that not everyone has a good job, or money to pay for extra things like toys. Tell them how blessed they are to have the things they have. I have these conversations on a weekly, sometimes daily basis with my three year old and four year old daughters.
They understand, don’t underestimate them.
A few weeks ago, my four year old daughter asked me, “Mommy, why can’t you be the mommy for the kids that don’t have a mommy? We can share our food and toys with them!” There is nothing else my daughter has ever said or done that has made me more proud than that statement. And she has done some pretty funny and incredible things! But she can change the world with that attitude. I hope to be right next to her while she does it.
Don’t let this Thanksgiving pass without truly being appreciative of all that you have. It doesn’t take much to see it.
Ideas for Action:
If you live locally, in NoVA, here are some ways for you to be involved:
If you don’t live here, do some google searches for organizations in your area, or call local churches or community organizations to see if they have something going on you can help them with. Don’t fear! There are other advocates out there! Or ask me, and I will help you find someway to help meaningfully where you are!
A great book to read about two guys who chose to be homeless to experience it firsthand:
Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America
Helping Internationally with Your Kids:
Operation Christmas Child is a very easy way to help your kids do something tangible- making a Christmas package for a child overseas. You can even track the package online! I generally spend under $20 doing this project with my kids, by shopping at the dollar store. This week (November 14-21st) is collection week! I know my local Chick-fila is collecting them, as well as many churches and other organizations/business. This project is easy to do and worth it!
To hear more from Katie, check out her blog at: http://katiesprettylittlelife.blogspot.com/ or check out another of her posts here, Poverty vs. Indifference: An Advocate’s Hope or Art of Advocacy: Where You are Planted.