The Practice of Gratitude Part 2
A society dwells in a dump, a cavity of stink where the city throws its trash in Tijuana, Mexico.
As a college student, I spent a day volunteering there. We administered showers to the kids. We checked for lice one family at a time and passed out toiletries to the masses. They received two meals and clean clothes. These precious ones called this horrible pit their home. The lucky ones used cardboard boxes as shelter from the rain.
Never in my young life had I seen such gratefulness, such unabashed appreciation. It was as if we had rescued them and delivered them to a mansion. Strong images, forever ingrained in my mind.
Repeated guilt ensued after my time at the dump, including an ongoing confession to God. I kept saying, “God, forgive me for my ungratefulness! Forgive me for all my stuff, forgive me, forgive me…” It felt wrong that I had so much. Wrong that I was living in a large condo, driving a great car and getting a college degree. I had fabulous clothes and a warm shower every day. No one administered humiliating lice checks and I didn’t worry when the rain came.
Was it a sin that I was born to my parents? That my folks could afford material possessions for me? A college education and housing to boot? Such extravagance compared to the mammas and daddies I’d met, wanting only to feed, clothe, and protect their children. My college-girl self lived sheltered and cared for. A gift.
In time, my grown-up self learned this truth:
Being raised with material abundance is not a sin.
My dump encounter was priceless. My experience that day eclipsed the small bit of what I did for the people I met. In the years following, I’ve had many opportunities to look at my plenty, in contrast to the lives of people living in poverty: I’ve worked in prisons, orphanages, street outreach, homeless shelters, among many. What strikes me each time I “serve” is the gratitude given. Beautiful gratitude, this is what I aspire to take from these experiences into my living. Not guilt or a feeling that my privileges are a sin.
Valuable examples for me. I’ve seem that no matter what the condition or situation, there is always something to be grateful for. If the citizens of the dump can do it, so can I.
Also valuable was coming to terms with sin and abundance. But what about sin and ungratefulness?