Sunday, August 7, 2011
If given the choice, I pick the window seat. But even if I am in the aisle, I crank my neck so I can keep my eyes glued out the tiny window. As the wind moves under and over the wings to cause lift from the ground, my mind goes to the same place each time. As I watch school buses become blobs of yellow, trees become patches of green and buildings become dots of gray, I cannot help but think about how little and insignificant I really am.
It’s funny how much time we devote to feeling important. We carefully pick the clothes we wear, schools we send our kids to, cars we drive, and even the phones we carry because we think people are looking. Whatever it takes to get the most positive attention. It seems that we want our gadgets, our hobbies and the people we associate with to tell a story about who we are. And at all cost we want to avoid things that don’t validate that story. We can let a spot of ketchup on our khakis ruin our day. (My gosh, what will people think?) This whole game we play is subconscious.
For some reason though, when I am cruising 550 miles per hour and looking down to see nothing but squares of different shades of brown and green and occasional blue bodies of water, I become very conscious that none of this matters! I am really really really small!
I love watching HGTV. I don’t know why but it brings me pleasure to see the inside of homes and what people do with their space. The other day, I was watching a show about a family looking for a home on a beach overseas. They had a budget of 1.2 million. Seriously, who has that kind of money? Oh well. Happy for them. They saw a few houses and then the realtor snuck in a 1.4 million dollar house to compare to. It had all the bells and whistles. The granite counter tops. The heated tile floor. 9 bedroom. The pool overlooking the ocean. A beautiful grill and outdoor seating. I know this will be shocking, but this couple somehow pulled together an additional $200,000 and bought the house with all the extras. About 15 minutes after I watched the show, I walked into our kitchen to get a drink. Our white tile counters made me roll my eyes; we need some granite. I looked out in the backyard and the broken tiles around our pool shouted back at me, “fix me!!!" Our little $35 charcoal grill looked very sad and out of place on our back porch like a 1982 station wagon in Donald Trumps driveway. The list of things that HAD to be done to our home all of a sudden became very long. Why? Because I was comparing myself to the guy who had an extra $1.4 million to spend. My perspective shifted. My position of gratitude and awe that we get to wake up each day in a home that we love was replaced with a focus on what wasn’t perfect.
Don’t we do that in so many areas of life. You walk out the door feeling pretty good about the 5 lbs you lost and then you end up sitting by your workmate who is a size 2 and now you feel like an elephant. You feel so proud of your kids and then your friend starts bragging about how her son was voted 'most likely to be the next Payton Manning'. Suddenly, the fact that your kids won the Spelling Bee or The Math Olympics doesn‘t seem worth mentioning. Or you finally make that last car payment and it is 100% yours and then your sister-in-law drives up in her new Ford Mustang convertible or even worse a Jeep Wrangler loaded with an off-road package.
Yesterday, I got a letter from Frantz. He is from Haiti and we have been sponsoring him through Compassion International for over 5 years. In his letters he asks me questions and I do the same in my letters back to him. In yesterday's letter, he asked if we are taking any vacations this year. As a matter of fact, we are. We are going to Colorado in September and Disney World in November. It is my habit to send him pictures so I sent one of a Florida beach and one of the Colorado mountains but I kept the details to a minimum. With Frantz, I feel embarrassed at the abundance we have. The price of our airline tickets alone is more than I send him each year. Knowing that he lives on a dirt floor with his mother who is in poor health makes me feel ashamed that having granite countertops even matters to me. And how in the world would I explain Disney World to him? It all seems so insignificant…and completely unfair.
The fact that there are even 1.4 million dollar homes in existence when there are people in this world living on dirt floors is a shame. Knowing that I will drop thousands of dollars so we can go hang out with oversized pretend animals when there are people who can't scrape enough together to keep their utilities on is kinda hard to swallow when I think about it.
I am so thankful for my home and the AC that blows non-stop these days. I am thankful for the car that gets me where I need to go and I am thankful for my good health. My perspective should always be from a position of gratitude! My hope is that I never put my desire for granite countertops in front of making a difference to those who don’t have clean drinking water or those who can’t find jobs in this economy. May I never focus on the ketchup stain on my pants instead of the person who needs a friend to listen. And may I never focus so much on what’s in my head that I ignore the stranger who just needed a smile to be reminded that they are not invisible.
And next time I start focusing on what I don’t have, may my perspective shift back to a position of gratitude quickly. Stuff doesn’t matter. After all, from a distance,they are just blobs of color.