A Grateful 2013
Last night I took my daughter to see Les Miserables, and on the way home we talked about how well they captured the misery and poverty of the time period. It made me remember a conversation I had with my high school English teacher when I was a teen. I was devouring every Jane Austen novel I could find, and the innocent romantic in me told him how much I wished I had lived back then instead of now. He looked over his glasses at me and said, “The odds you would have been born into aristocracy were slim to none. You would have been a peasant. Half of your children would have died in infancy. The smell of smallpox and plagues would permeate your world, and you probably would have died by age 40.” KA BOOM. Back to reality. And yes, I loved that teacher because he always made me think.
Thirty years later, I still ask the same question: Why it is that some people get to be born into opportunity, while others are born into situations which make life a constant struggle? Working with impoverished orphanages has only cemented that question more in my mind, especially when it comes to children.
I have seen such sad things when tiny babies are abandoned with medical needs. So much sorrow when children grow up without parents to cherish them. Since the day my own kids were adopted, they have never again known true hunger. They always have shoes and warm blankets. They get medical care when they are sick, and of course they are SO loved. And yes – they’ve even been to Disneyland.
A few weeks ago I saw a report on a refugee camp outside of Syria, and all of the children were in the snow with bare feet. Their toes were red and swollen with frostbite, and my heart just ached that this was the only world they knew. And so the question was raised again —- why do my kids get to be warm and fed and educated – when so many children around the world are struggling just to live?
Of course there is no good answer to that question. It has been asked for centuries. I think the most important thing, however, is for us to live AWARE of it, because then we never take our lives for granted. Now with social media, we have the ability to listen nonstop to what people are thinking, and so often these thoughts are complaints. Like the woman ranting on Facebook about how terrible it was that she couldn’t get her nails done before leaving on vacation to Bermuda. Or the man railing about the “morons” at the driver’s license agency because he had to wait twenty whole minutes for his turn. I wonder if he ever stops to think about all the children in this world who have to walk for two hours or more each day simply to get safe drinking water.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more and more people (especially those of us on our smart phones in the comfort of our centrally heated homes) could come to realize just how blessed our lives honestly are compared to much of the world. It is just so easy to complain, isn’t it? We ALL fall into that trap at times….but how much better it is to look at our lives and give thanks instead.
So here’s to a grateful 2013. May we come to appreciate all the simple blessings we often take for granted. And may our gratitude turn then to action, allowing many more children to find the hope they deserve.
~Amy Eldridge, Chief Executive Officer