“Eat your broccoli, Erin–there are starving children in China!”
Growing up, I remember my poor mother used the Starving Children in China routine to try and coerce me into eating some hated vegetable or swallowing my antibiotic. I was a pretty sweet, mild kid–except for when it came to food (or taking medicine). Try to make me eat something I didn’t like? Good luck, sister!
Something that has been on my heart this Christmas season is the disparity between my worries and the worries of those all around me, in my own community and in the world community, who are dealing with the hard stuff.
For example, our neighbors across the street, an older couple with grown children, just finished the wife’s first 6-week round of chemotherapy.
My dear friend lost her husband to cancer just after Thanksgiving, and is now facing tough financial, personal and parenting decisions with her three young children.
I read an article a few days ago that reported that Houston is considered one of the top cities in the world for the human trafficking and sex slave trades.
Other than the severely deteriorating health of my grandparents and, of course, the suffering and sadness that accompanied our friend’s recent death, my own worries of late seem frivolous, and–dare I say–willfully indulgent at times.
Without adopting an extremist, don’t-take-anything-seriously, don’t-give-problems-the-reasonable-healthy-attention-they-deserve mindset, I feel called to start living my life with much, much more perspective.
Picking up Michael’s dirty clothes, having to take an extra trip to the grocery, or a fussy afternoon with Gabriel will not make me be irritable with my husband for the rest of day.
When my husband, family, boss or friends are upset with me, I will do my best with the grace of God to resolve conflicts, but won’t dwell on problems or hold grudges.
I will refuse to become frustrated with traffic, or let others’ frustration poison the mood and conversations of my car (or MY mood) when we’re traveling.
Within reason, I’m not giving more thought, energy or worry than is reasonable and necessary to keeping my house clean or to the way I dress. And I refuse to participate in gossip, that insidious “little evil” that spreads forgetfulness of what’s really important.
How dare I or any of us elevate insignificant problems such that we spend more time being angry, or worried, or stressed, or irritated than we do making the world, and ourselves, a little bit better for others?
How dare I spend more time in a day thinking about the faults I see in others than I do in prayer for them and myself?
Call me slow, but it’s finally hitting me this Christmas season the significance of Jesus being born in a dirty shelter for animals–while just steps away people of Bethlehem stayed inside their comfortable homes. That’s not giving people dignity. The Creator of the universe, the Author of history, the God who forgives my pitiful, weak sins so generously and lifts me up to Him time and time again…he points us toward poverty, toward real suffering, in His Christmas story. Poverty and suffering right outside our own front doors.
I don’t want to be like the people of Bethlehem, who closed their doors and hearts on a desperately needy couple. Perhaps they were worried about their other guests being irritated with them for asking them to give up a room for this little family.. Perhaps they were worried about running out of food for a party. Perhaps they were in their pajamas and were embarrassed to let a guest come inside. Maybe the immediacy and scale of the needs of Mary and Joseph overwhelmed them, and so they just rejected helping them in any way.
There are Mary and Josephs so, so close to us at all times. We just need to live our lives in perspective to see them. Which I intend to start doing.
I also plan to start taking my “broccoli”–the tough relationships, situations and stresses of my very, very blessed life–with a profound new sense of gratitude–and perspective.