Monday, April 30, 2007

When is it Enough?

Isn't it interesting how you will have a particular topic thrust in your face all of a sudden, over and over again, and you don't really know why or where it is coming from? Kind of like buying a new car and then it seems your eye is drawn to that make or model of car and you see them everywhere when you never noticed it before?

Friday I had that happen to me, and I am not sure why. Actually, I think I am sure and it is because that is one of the ways God uses to speak to me. I was listening to talk radio, NPR and the like, and during my drive home from Denver every program I listened to brought up the topic of our society's self-centeredness and desire for more "stuff". Hmmm...well...that is not such a new topic I guess, but it was interesting to see that others were really beginning to talk about it. As often happens during long drives in warm, sun drenched cars, my mind started to drift. I was thinking of examples of this self-centeredness, all this materialism, and really how totally ridiculous we have all become.

Take the now well known episode involving Alec Baldwin and his daughter's insult to him by not answering the phone when he called. I heard much of the tape that was released of that call and my first thought was "This sounds exactly like what I would expect from a TV/Movie star who thinks the world revolves around them...". His anger was not an admonition to his daughter to correct her "thoughtless" behavior, it was a rant about how she had "embarassed him", how she hadn't thought enough about him. It was self-centered arrogance at it's finest, and if I were Mr. Baldwin I would have shrunk in utter shame when I heard those words replayed for me.

I thought about the NFL draft, and the millions upon millions of dollars paid out to young men who simply play a game. They are not adding much to society really, they are not contributing in ways that will truly benefit others. They are highly paid entertainers who are rewarded for throwing a ball and hitting one another.

Then there are the typical MTV rappers who will record their "music" which is ultimately trash talk set to a beat, will pimp their rides, build their mansions with their 5 plasma TV's and continue to live extended childhoods long after it is appropriate. Then our children will see this standard of living that is unachievable by the average American and think that they too should have the plasma TV's, the cool rides...and they feel deprived if they don't get it.

And it is not just limited to our youth. HGTV has made all of us middle income 30 and 40 somethings yearn for houses that have granite countertops, $40,000 living room renovations, and landscape designers. We see it on TV and in Home Depot, and think we can't live without it, as if a formica countertop won't serve us just as well as the latest polished marble.

When is enough enough? When do we finally begin to have a deep understanding of the fact that chasing all this "stuff" and searching only for what we think will make us happy has nothing to do with true joy? When and how did it get to this point, where we let the media in all it's forms dictate to us what our lives should look like to the outsider? Are our lives so easy, so shallow, that we honestly think that we MUST have the biggest sub-zero freezer in our home or we are just not going to be considered successful?

It is so sad to me, that life for most of us has become this...we idolize those who would have been considered degenerates 20 years ago, we hold ourselves up to some sort of materialistic standard that is asinine, we fail to feel for others any longer unless it somehow relates back to us. Americans have had it so good for so long, that they have lost themselves somehow along the path to middle-class wealth. And believe me, our middle class is wealthy, even when compared to our own parents when they were our ages. The Walmarts and the Office Depots have allowed us all to own more stuff due to their incredible buying power bringing prices down to lows never imagined in years past.

And then I read about others who haven't forgotten...who have recognized the value of "we" instead of the value of "me". Take John and Julie Wright. They are doing incredible things for the homeless and orphans of Central Asia, and they are very inspiring to me. The stories on their blog, the photos they share really serve to put it all into perspective...a toilet used for a sink in an elderly nursing home, entire families living in a garbage dump, children long forgotten by anyone, never feeling special even once in their young lives, never feeling treasured.

For that is what it is about, isn't it? Do any of us really understand what it means to never...not even once in your life...have felt special or important to anyone? And for those who are in those shoes, how do they ever begin to see their own self-worth when no one else has seen it in them and reflected it back? I have been treasured by many in my lifetime, thankfully. I had parents who would do anything for me...not for them, but for me. I have a husband who has always thought of me first before himself, I have sons who put each other and their parents first even at their expected selfish stage in life. I have friends who have never truly felt treasured, I have sons who were not treasured for at least a small portion of their life. It causes untold damage, and it is something that any single one of us can change for someone we meet who feels that way about themselves. It doesn't cost a thing, only time and effort.

And what about people who are generally considered "throw aways"...those who we ignore every day in our rush to acquisition. What about our lonely elderly, our latch key kids, our societal misfits who never quite manage to grasp the norm?

When do we stop thinking about "me" and start thinking about "we"?? It doesn't take much really, a small act of kindness here or there, an expression of faith in someone else's abilities when no one else stands by them. Why don't we go out of our way more often? As I have talked to others about the Antares Foundation I have tried to make them see that even if they don't send a gift to an orphan, an encouraging card or letter can change their life...an ongoing relationship with some one who cares if they get a good grade in school, or who is concerned if their feelings are hurt...that is free for us to offer.

Giving of ourselves, our time, our effort...that leads to thinking of things other than our own needs and desires. It is awesome to me how taking our mind off ourselves and putting that effort into something or someone else suddenly dries up desire and dismay at what we don't have. It not only creates joy for others, it brings joy to our own hearts as well, almost as if by magic. I guess it is magic, actually, it is called "love".

If you would like to read a great blog that will make you stop and think for a moment, a blog that will make you count your blessings, check out the Wright's blog at www.actofkindness.blogspot.com. If you don't come away after reading it with a new perspective, I would be totally surprised.

And then think to yourself "When is enough, enough?"

2 comments:

tina said...

That was really well written. Thank you for that reminder. Our trip to Kyrgyzstan was a huge wake up call for me. Before having Zannie, I used to cook for the homeless and I thought I had seen poor and down and out people. Then we went to Kyrgyzstan. I am changed forever because of that trip. Still, it is so easy to go back to my own life and insulate myself from these realities. But, with adopting our girl, I can never turn away from helping the people of Kyrgyzstan and with John's enthusiasm, I'll never be able to hide!!! And I don't want to either. Thank you for this post.

Kim Adams said...

Wow, that is well said. I've also been "hearing" about this topic for the last couple of months and trying to decipher how I'm being called. First a concert by David LaMotte, who spoke about his non-profit work in Guatemalen schools (pegpartners.org), then the Wright's blog, then a visit to a friend's brand new mansion of a home, then a study of the last verses of 1 Timothy.... My goodness, our dollars can do so much more in poorer countries!