Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Grateful Hearts?

My friend Karl was telling us last week about his trip to Ghana last summer. He said that, after he returned to the States, it really strikes him how much we have here, and how ungrateful we are for our blessings, and how piddly and inconsequential are the things we worry about.

Yesterday I was chatting with a neighbor, and she mentioned that she got a phone call from the doctor on the morning of the 24th about a lump. She worried all through Christmas that this was her last one. The surgery and biopsy on the 29th showed it was benign, but she was telling me how those five days made her realize that her worries about a clean house or the number of presents under the tree are nothing, and that what matters is that she's alive and has her health and her family around her. She also acknowledged that she had a scare like this about a year ago, and appreciated the "attitude adjustment," but that her improved perspective wore off faster than it should've, and she went back to being consumed by all the regular American concerns.

But how does a person get a better perspective? What if you can recognize that you have much to be thankful for, but nevertheless worry about all the failings? What is it that changes hearts -- other than being smacked upside the head with a huge loss (or seeing another culture's poverty)?


  1. The answer is to face your own huge loss (whether or not it precisely smacks you upside the head), or to see the loss/poverty of another. That's what perspective means, the way you experience things based on the way you've already experienced things. It cannot be logicked into your head, it must have a basis, otherwise it's not real perspective.

    I think it's very important to have perspective, but I also think it's important not to get lost in it. Either you are called to dedicate your life to evangelism, humanitarianism work, major political work, volunteering, etcetera, or you are not, and if you are not, then you should concern yourself primarily with the things that have been given for you to be concerned with. Even the small things, which against cancer and poverty and homelessness and death, are nothing.

    Remember too that the sickness one can experience in the world is insignificant against the torments of Hell, and the richness of a middle- or high-class life are insignificant against the majesty of Heaven. That's the most important perspective.

    I also think it's important to be aware that all people suffer, no matter the way. If a person suffers for some unimportant reason, because they lost a prized possession or something, then despite the motivations behind their suffering, they are a human being feeling pain, the way all human beings feel pain, and it is good to comfort them.

    Otherwise, we should all pack up right not and do volunteer work in third-world countries, and never come back...

  2. Thanks, Nat. What you said about "perspective" and its being real and not logicked into my head, ... yes, that's part of where the stumbling block has been for me in figuring this out.

    I'm missing you and your family today, remembering with joy your Wisconsin excursion last New Years.