Simple Gratitude

Over the past year, I had the opportunity to visit 30 states and 2 countries. I walked the streets of some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the nation, worshiped at a church in a third world country, and moved to an inner-city neighborhood, where I live amongst the poor and working class.

I experienced many different cultures, but my biggest takeaway was the reality that we’re not as different as we might think. When we strip away the facades, we all want essentially the same things in life. We long to be loved, to feel that our lives matter, for a sense of community, safety, and security. We also possess far more than we realize. We can get caught up in feeling sorry for the family who lives in a $25,000 house in my neighborhood when we see the million-dollar homes overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, but even in the poorest neighborhoods, most Americans have a roof over their heads, four walls, clean water, air conditioning, heat, beds, showers, clothes to wear, and indoor plumbing, while there are still countless people overseas who do not have these things, which are so simple to us that we tend to take them for granted.

I am in no way trying to minimize the struggle of the poor, who can experience great difficulty in acquiring the things mentioned above. I just want to point out that even the poorest people in America are typically far better off than those in many other countries. I forget the extract statistic, but the vast majority of Americans are in somewhere around the top 5-10% of the world population. That means that even our poorest citizens have access to more resources than 90% of the world population.

In a culture that propagates the illusion of the American Dream, it’s easy to lose sight of the simple things. It’s easy to get upset when your air conditioning goes out, not realizing that there are people who don’t even know what that is. It’s easy to get frustrated with road construction, forgetting that not everyone has a car and an expansive network of roads to drive on. It’s easy to end up thinking that we deserve more and better, when halfway across the world, someone is praying for the things we don’t even realize we’ve received.

Everyone Matters Concept

Black Lives Matter.

I have a lot of mixed feelings on the current events these days. I don’t just want to have an opinion; I want to know the truth, and to stand for justice—no matter how unpopular that may make me.

I don’t have all the facts. I don’t know everything about what happened in Ferguson, or New York, or Cleveland. I’ve read the stories, but that doesn’t mean I have all the information. But here’s what I know: racism is a real thing—even in 2014. And while it DOES go both ways, African-Americans are far more oppressed than white folks like myself.

I believe it is time for another Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and others made significant progress, but this isn’t just a “been there, done that” type of thing. There is room for much more improvement. This was true before the killings this summer, but now the nation is finally paying attention. May we move toward greater levels of understanding, equality, and inclusion. Not just because we have to, but because we genuinely love our brothers and sisters for who they ARE, regardless of race or social status.

The Apostle Paul says the love of Christ has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. I see many Christians having cool encounters in church, but hurling insults at those who are different from them behind closed doors. But if we are truly filled with the Spirit, we will love one another when no one is watching. I have not achieved perfection in this, but I am on the path. I am learning, I am growing, and I am learning that the people I used to think were different than me actually aren’t that different at all.