Life is a gift.
I know that in America, much of our culture is based on the idea that we have rights. We believe “this is mine by the mere fact of my existence” and fight angrily to defend those rights when we feel we’ve been slighted.
However, we frequently leave out the “endowed by our creator” part.
Even these rights that belong to us are gifts from God, and while they are important and should be defended properly, there should also be an element of gratitude that lies beneath it all.
Without gratitude, the field of things that we defend angrily begins to grow until it encompasses that which lies far beyond the circle of basic, unalienable rights. Soon, we think that everything is owed us.
We begin to go about life demanding everything that we believe is ours be given to us immediately. We have the right to good service all the time. We have a right to not have to wait too long in line. We have a right to go where we like and do as we please. Everything belongs to us and when everything is ours, there is little to nothing left for anyone else.
And so, we become the inconsiderate assholes; forcing the world to bow to our demands no matter what the cost to others. Maybe service is bad because someone suffered a loss in their family and couldn’t make it to work. Maybe the line is too long because others were there before us. Maybe we can’t go where we want and do as we please because it might endanger someone else.
Maybe if we saw life’s things as gifts then maybe we would approach it with gratitude. If we view a dinner out as a privilege and special treat, then we would be more understanding of the fact that our meal wasn’t absolutely perfect and service was a little slow. Maybe waiting in line for that hockey game was something we’d not been able to do in a long time and so we’re happy to just be in line and chit chat with the usher and the other people there with us.
Maybe we would wear that mask in church.
I write this after an encounter with a volunteer at an event today. He was upset about covid restrictions and was grumbling about how he was “not going to do this forever” and “screw them”. He thought that he had a right to be where he wanted to be, doing what he wanted to do in the way he wanted to do it.
He felt it was his right to be there, but he was wrong. It was a gift.
It was a gift that the venue was even open to us. We were privileged to even be there with the rules that were in place. We didn’t have a right to be there. If we violated the rules, which, btw, did suck, we would not be allowed to be there.
But, he was angry and unhappy and I imagine he had a splendid time. Approaching life with gratitude changes our outlook. It makes inconveniences seem smaller. We appreciate the things once taken for granted.
As I stand here on my soapbox writing these words, I’m very aware that I can play the asshole too. I can be selfish, wanting to be treated with respect, but never really grateful for when I am treated as such. I get mad when the checkout line closes just as I get there or when they have no lanes open and I’m forced to use the self-checkout for an entire cart full of groceries.
This past year tho, has been a year long lesson in gratitude. With so many things that we normally do being literally dangerous to us all as a whole, I’m grateful for the things we can do. If I’ve got to walk in one certain direction or wear a mask, I don’t see it as a unreasonable cost. It’s a privilege to go out to brunch and find a spot that’s empty enough to be safe indoors.
I’m grateful to be able to watch my kid sing or throw a discus on a field. If I’ve got to wear a mask while I do so, it’s no big deal. They canceled his play last year and track season after 2 meets because of covid. Anything we get this year is a gift!
The trick tho, is to see things we don’t think are gifts in the same light and so that’s where the work lies — well, for me anyway.
Exiting the soapbox.