Last Monday was rough. Out of nowhere – a small colony of ants decided to invade our food pantry. Our washing machine wouldn’t stop flowing water – so it needed several hundred dollars to repair (then it broke down again with a new problem so it will be replaced). In the Kroger parking lot while I was in the store – someone scraped my vehicle with theirs leaving chipped paint on the bumper and ugly white marks. Student behavior at work is unlike anything we’ve seen in the last 5 years. I could go on and on – but then there’s perspective. You probably have your list of things too. And I’ll bet they are equal to or worse than mine.
Perspective. The Bible says to “Give thanks in all circumstances . . .” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) How do we give thanks when things keep breaking down without any relief? We ponder – could we please catch an extended break from the problems, hassles, and trials that life continues to throw at us?
Recently I heard an interview with Josh Peck, who was a childhood actor of the hit show Drake and Josh several years ago. Unfortunately, he went the familiar route of struggles being connected with fame and riches as a young star. Josh discusses his battles with self confidence, addiction, and depression. Fortunately, he was able to come out of it. I’m paraphrasing, but during the interview he said something to the effect of:
“The majority of our problems are the results of our luxuries.” Hmm . . . Perspective.
Ants in the pantry . . . I have a pantry with food stored in it. Unlike millions in this world.
Washing machine broke . . . I can wash my clothes in a machine instead of a pond or river.
Damage on my bumper . . . I have a vehicle to drive instead of walking or riding a bike everywhere.
Student behavior at work . . . I have a job and a steady paycheck in this unpredictable economy.
Try this with your struggles. Yes, there are things that we can’t figure out how to be thankful for: death of a loved one, exploited children, poverty, violent crime, global wars, etc. But there are some things that we can shift our viewpoint on. Author Jon Gordon states, “You cannot be thankful and stressed at the same time.” His advice is to flood our minds and vocabulary with positive, hopeful, and thankful statements to help offset the negative.
One more example. I was hesitant to share this – it’s pretty intense. However, it has helped me every time I start drifting towards being ungrateful, asking “Why me?” – or feeling frustrated when things keep breaking down. This story comes from professional photographer Lisa Kristine. For more than 25 years she has traveled the most hidden parts of the world to capture the beauty and expose the hardships of indigenous peoples. This is her horrific description of visiting one of the illegal brick kilns in India:
“This strange and awesome sight was like walking into ancient Egypt or Dante’s Inferno. Enveloped in temperatures of 130 degrees, men, women, children, entire families in fact, were cloaked in a heavy blanket of dust, while mechanically stacking bricks on their head, up to 18 at a time, and carrying them from the scorching kilns to trucks hundreds of yards away. Deadened by monotony and exhaustion, they work silently, doing this task over and over for 16 or 17 hours a day. There were no breaks for food, no water breaks, and the severe dehydration made urinating pretty much inconsequential. So pervasive was the heat and dust that my camera became too hot to even touch and ceased working. Every 20 minutes, I’d have to run back to our cruiser to clean out my gear and run it under an air conditioner to revive it, and as I sat there, I thought, my camera is getting far better treatment than these people . . . “