I wasn't going to do a "Thanksgiving Post." Well, okay, I probably was, but it probably wasn't going to be all like, "I'm grateful for this, and I'm thankful for that, and blah blah blah." Why? Well, first off, I don't like doing things just because everyone else is doing them. And everyone does "this is what I'm thankful for" posts for Thanksgiving. Second, I don't like the idea of being thankful during just one day or season of the year. I like to think that it's always a good idea to be thankful. Third, since I like to think that it's always a good idea to be thankful, I pretty much strive to be thankful a lot. And I figure that I'm pretty darn grateful. And also, I'm humble.
But lately God and His grace have been knocking me out a lot (in a good way). And the other night, I got home from work making old people noises. I was groaning and grumbling and generally saying, "I'm tired! The kids were whiny! The coffee ran out!" Just between you and me, I sometimes complain. And by "sometimes," I mean, "only when I'm breathing."
Then, as I was tossing my keys down to kinetically express the agony of my long day, I noticed that I had mail. There was a letter from my sponsor child. I love getting letters from this girl. She's always encouraging and cute (she's ten, which is a fun age no matter what country a kid is from). She always addresses me by my first and last name. She always asks me questions based on her understanding of the world, which is very different than mine. Oh, and the translation always has some errors in it, and that makes me laugh. Kudos to the translation peeps, though. I mean, I barely got by in college Spanish....
Anyway, in the letter before this letter, my sponsor child asked me if I'd ever worked in a rice paddy field. I thought that was a funny question because there aren't a lot of rice paddy fields floating around where I live in North Carolina. But that's probably all she really knows, and I understood from that question and previous letters that her parents worked in the paddy fields. I wrote her back saying that I'd not worked in a paddy field, and I figured that sort of concluded the discussion about rice paddy fields.
But in the letter I got yesterday, she asked me if I had ever harvested rice. I chuckled a little, but then I read the next sentence. "I have harvested the rice with my parents. It hurts my back so much. I wish you could come and harvest the rice in my village."
Ten. She has just turned ten years old. When I was ten, I think I was still rejoicing over the fact that I'd finally learned to tie my shoelaces. Her? She's worked in rice fields. She's probably done some pretty long and hard labor, probably to help her parents so they'd be able to survive. And she also has to go to school and keep up with her studies. Suddenly, I felt pretty lousy for complaining about my hard day...which really wasn't that hard. I sat on a padded carpet in an air conditioned room and got hugs from cute kids. I have no idea, NO idea of the reality some people, many of them children, have to face on a daily basis. And they're grateful, truly grateful, for what they have. And if I were to go work in the rice fields, as she requested in her letter, I'd probably not be all that jazzed about it. And she and her family would see me for what I am: not this loving American lady who cares enough to give a tiny percentage of her comparatively astronomical pay to a child in need, but a whiny American brat who doesn't have any concept of how the majority of the world lives.
And as if I wasn't feeling guilty enough, my sponsor child added this verse to the end of her letter: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, "Therefore do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
I've read that verse before, but never through the eyes of someone who probably has some idea of what it means to be "outwardly wasting away." I know this child is being cared for and has enough to sustain her, but compared to her, I'm a spoiled brat. I don't make a lot of money. I don't even have health insurance. My car is messed up, and I am in debt. But man, I have it good. I've got a roof over my head, and for the moment my car is still going vroom. I've got creature comforts galore. In an economy as jacked up as ours, I've got about four jobs, and I LOVE them all. There's really nothing I have to complain about. And aside from the material things, I've got tons of amazing friends. I've got a family who loves me, and I'm pretty crazy about them, too. I've got dreams and hopes and even a little bit of talent (again, there's that amazing humility of mine). More than any of those things, though, I've got the One Thing that no one can ever take away from me: the love of God.
I've got it pretty good, actually.
And when I really start thinking about it, there thousands of children in this world who have it so much worse than my sponsor child. Children are dying of starvation. Children are being sold into slavery and prostitution. That's not pleasant to think about, so a lot of us just don't think about it. We want to sit in our nice houses with our nice things and watch our nice big tvs and just be comfortable. I'm as guilty of it as anyone else. One thing I'm pretty sure of: God never blessed us so we could hoard our blessings. But that's exactly what I do.
Gratitude. Yes. I have a lot to be grateful for. And right now the question I'm asking myself is this: If I've been given so much, what exactly am I going to do with it?