We have so much. We’re rich by world standards but, by American standards, we’re middle class. That boggles my mind.
My little girl, Damaris, has a family income of $187 a month. My little girl Tanya’s family lives on just a little bit more.
Last December, I spent a day playing with children in a Yalu neighborhood. Half of the children there do not own a single pair of shoes. Walking down a dusty, dirt street with a shoeless child smiling at you and holding your hand, changes you. It just does.
Third-world poverty is crushing. I’ve rebuilt homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, I’ve worked with families in the Appalachian region of Tennessee and I’ve served in inner city programs in Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts. Poverty is alive and well here in America too, but it is nothing at all like third-world poverty.
I’m compelled to help in any way I can here at home too, so I volunteer for food distribution programs, donate socks for cold feet, buy Toys for Tots, sell Christmas trees and serve meals. But, it’s different here and I’m thankful that it is.
I have so very much. Opening my refrigerator this morning and seeing it overflowing gives me pause. There are two, fresh-baked pies nearby on the counter and a carrot cake on the island. We can’t possibly eat it all.
A few days ago I sent each of my Guatemala girls $25 and designated it “for family needs.” My friends at our school will probably buy each family a bag of corn for tortillas, cooking oil, flour, pasta, cereals and a variety of other staples. I know their moms will thank God. They know it’s from Him first and me as someone he has invited to join in His mission.
I’m thankful for my life-changing events. I’m thankful that my transplant experience taught me that nothing is more important than relationships and that stuff is just stuff. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to serve in third-world poverty to have my eyes opened to how most of our planet lives.
I’m thankful that my faith is so much more than a weekly pew-sitting, performance-watching, pep talk. I’m thankful that it compels me to live differently and rewards me more than I can even explain.
Today, I will rough-house with my precious grandbabies and zerbert their bellies while they laugh hilariously. I’ll watch Shara and Kristen be incredible moms and I’ll take note of Josh and Jake loving their wives and kids. I’ll goose my amazing wife of 33 years while she leans over to baste the turkey and she’ll scold me and swat me. I’ll miss my restaurant son and his wife but be thankful for their love for one another.
And, at some point, my eyes will fill with tears of thanksgiving remembering this is all a gift that almost didn’t happen. In March of 2012 I came within days of being released to hospice care. But that didn’t happen and I am so very, very thankful.
“God must have plans for you,” more than a few people told me. I have no doubt that is true.
New friends & new neighbors, an awesome church family unafraid to get involved, new family members, new experiences and a new sense of purpose were part of God’s plans. My personality profile shifted from the “field marshall” ENTJ to “the campaigner” ENSP after transplant. I shifted from product to process: from results to relationship. I’m thankful for that change.
And now this is more me: “It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for – and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool – for love – for your dreams – for the adventure of being alive.’ Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
I want to invest myself in this mission of following Christ beyond empty religion and ritual. I want to invest myself in loving God and loving others. I want to remember to be thankful, no matter what.
No matter where I’ve been, third-world poverty or crushing crisis, natural disasters or beautiful beaches, plenty or little, I’ve met true Jesus lovers who are genuinely happy no matter what. I’ve met people who can truly say, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Neh 8:10) It’s not about stuff at all.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1
I’m thankful for you. No, really … I mean it.