I am not naturally selfless. I suppose if I was this blog would not be necessary at all. And while human nature in and of itself hinders me from being selfless, growing up in America doesn't help much either. I have been raised in a part of the world where many are affluent, at least by the world's standards. (Don't take my word for it, check out the Global Rich List website to see where your income ranks compared to the rest of the world!) It's not just that we make more money than so many millions or billions of people out there- it's also that we live where what we have is never supposed to be enough. More is better than less, new is better than old. Our society does not teach us to be content- we are neither familiar nor comfortable with the concept of "enough".
Case in point- my husband and I just bought a house. It is a fine house- a cape with more than enough bedrooms for us and two kids- enough rooms really for more children if we wanted. We have working electricity and fine plumbing and plenty of nice curtains and decorations to boot. But I hate my kitchen floor. It is dingy and dirty. It's an old, peeling, linoleum nuisance. But it is functional, and I can clean it, and there is really nothing about it that makes my life harder. Still- I want a new floor. In fact, I can scarcely watch all those DIY or home makeover shows, because I think that all of the houses that are getting these fabulous makeovers were one hundred times better than mine to begin with!! (Seriously "Kitchen Crashers", if you saw my linoleum you would be at my house tomorrow.)
So how do I change my heart? How do I stop looking at what I have as if it isn't enough? Well, for one- if I'm comparing what I have to middle and upper class America- I'm always going to have less than "enough" by that standard. I could get the kitchen floor I wanted and then I'd have to change those dated cabinets- add crown molding- install granite countertops perhaps. Finally, the house wouldn't be enough period and I'd be miserable until I could find a better one. In order to understand enough, I have to start comparing myself to those who have less than I do. If I can do that, my crappy linoleum seems like a dream compared to bare dirt floors in a one-room African hut, or floors that lie just next to a disgusting river of junk, odor, and human feces. Do I have enough? Well now there's a resounding YES- in fact, I might just have MORE than enough.
But let's face it, in a given day I'm more likely to be bombarded by commercials alone with reminders of what I don't have (iPad, luxury car, designer clothes, etc) than what I do. I find that I must constantly CHOOSE to remind myself of just how much I do have- and just how great the gap truly is between what I have, and what others do not. I recently watched a film called "58" (You can check out more about the film and initiative at http://live58.org/thefilm/ .) In summary, it showed vignettes of people in a handful of places in the world- some living in poverty from drought and lack of resources, some being sold into sex slavery, some living in life long bondage because of debts that could never be repaid. It was a vivid reminder to me of what I really have and, further, an unavoidable challenge to use what I have to change what others don't. The film actually ends by showing how much we've collectively done in one generation to alleviate extreme poverty- and asks what it would take to eliminate such extreme poverty completely. Part of me doesn't feel like believing that it can be done- but I must.
It's a call to remember what is urged of the Israelites, and Christians as a whole, in Isaiah 58: 6-7:
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
This was a catalyst for me to be less selfless this week- find your catalyst and let's change the way we think about enough.