I have been incredibly blessed over the last couple of months. Most of October was spent with Cornel, Duncan, Irene, and Rose from Kenya as we traveled around the South, and this month has brought time with family and close friends.
In an interview on Thanksgiving, Robert Griffin III made a comment along the lines of how thankful he, and EVERY American, should be for the lives that we live. On the same day, I read about ethnic killings in Kenya and the growing concerns about the next presidential election in March. After the last Kenyan election, a thousand people were murdered and close to a million were forced to leave their homes – what a blessing it is to complete an election cycle this month and not fear for our lives here in America! If you are an American reading this blog, then you know that there are overwhelming challenges in the world. So what should our response be to the idea that every American has much to be thankful for, while people in places like Kenya struggle so intently?
Often the response is guilt. Those commercials with slow music and crying children, or the Sunday sermons before the missions offering, can quickly make us feel guilty about the things we have. Sure, that feeling prompts giving, but is this the kind of giving we want? I think that giving out of guilt can easily create resentment. When we feel guilty as we give, what does that make us think about the cause or the people that we are giving to help? Even if our gift helps in the short term, I believe that the resentment it creates can keep us from looking for ways to help in the future.
The better response to the discrepancies around the world is a feeling that becomes a cliche this time of year – thankfulness. But not just thankfulness for what we have! Thankfulness for the opportunity that our excess creates. Because we have been given so much, we have the chance to use those resources to make good things happen. That could be helping someone down the street, or helping someone on the other side of the world. If we help someone because we are thankful, instead of because we are guilty, doesn’t it feel completely different? When we are thankful as we give, we are able to focus on the good that is happening for others, instead of only the things that we are giving up. The next time a need comes around, we then have a positive experience to build on, instead of the fear of guilt!
So over the next couple of months, when you are reminded of all that we have as Americans, don’t feel guilty about it! If you’ve been blessed, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Instead of feeling guilty about what you have, feel thankful for the good that you can do with it. My mom has always said there are two sides to the “blessing” coin – both being blessed and being a blessing. Most of us have the first part down – we ARE blessed. So how can we now BE a blessing to others?
Ephesians 2:10: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.