Saturday, May 24, 2008

How Good Do We Really Have It?

Now I'm speaking specifically of people who live in places where such things as chlorinated tap water, carpeted floors, and a telephone in their home are a given and most people don't usually think about it. When I talk about seeking for the positive things in life, I think this is part of the process sometimes. I think that most of us forget or aren't even aware of all the good things we have and instead get stuck thinking about what we don't have.

Some background on my perspective:

Before I was married, I served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and lived for 16 months in Guatemala. Before I left the Missionary Training Center, I was well warned to be careful what I ate and drank and to never go barefoot to avoid getting unnecessarily sick. As a result, for the next 16 months I drank bottled or boiled water, closed my mouth while taking a shower, and wore flip-flops around the house, including while I took a shower. (Now perhaps I was overly cautious, but I only remember being sick once after I'd eaten pupusas that didn't agree with me and I haven't had any problems since.) When I returned home that first night, I remember being excited to do two things: drink water from the tap and walk barefoot on the carpet. (The homes I lived in and/or visited in Guatemala had cement or sometimes dirt floors. No wall-to-wall carpeting there. :) )

Since my time in Guatemala, I've had a new perspective on what is really important for happiness in life. I've known many people with little of worldly wealth or possessions who are truly happy. Because of that, I've better understood that "stuff" doesn't make one happy. So when I "seek the positive," I try to recognize what I do have.

Let me share an example of what I mean. I don't have a dishwasher. It doesn't come with our apartment and we don't have the space for one. I have had to learn, again, how to wash dishes by hand on a regular basis. However, I do have a window to look out of when I do the dishes. In my old apartment, I just had a wall to look at. I also have hot running water, dish soap, and rubber gloves to use as I wash dishes instead of a ball of soap and a scrubbing pad, a deep basin full of cold water, and a bowl to dip the water from the basin to rinse the dishes. By focusing on what I do have, it makes it easier not to wish for a dishwasher, when I can't have one anyway.

By seeing what I do have, does that mean that I somehow think I'm better than those who have less or should feel guilty about having more? No. In fact, I think we all have an obligation, as we recognize what we do have, to help those around us that are less fortunate than ourselves. Where much is given, much is required. (Luke 12:48; D&C 82:3)

To clarify when I talk about what we have, that doesn't mean just physical things. We each have our own strengths and assets, whether physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual. I believe we've been given those strengths by God to help those around us. So as we learn to seek the positive, I think we should evaluate our strengths, recognize the Source of those strengths, and use them to benefit our families and others around us.

(Side note: So if I post something totally random, like I'm grateful for washing machines, even if it's a laundromat, instead of washing all my clothes by hand with a ball of soap, a washboard, and a basin of water, think of this post and you might better understand why. :) )

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