Attitude of Gratitude
and True Wealth
It is true that money cannot buy happiness. But, on the other hand, it is nice to enjoy a comfortable home, good food, a nice car, health care and the other benefits many of us have in the United States…and yet often we take them for granted.
Today, I invite you to take a fresh look at what you already have. .
In fact, I would like to ask you to consider today that we are truly among the most blessed and privileged people that the world has ever known.
You may be thinking “Are you kidding? Rich and privileged on my income? With what is going on in today’s economy? Just take a look at the year and condition of my car(s) and my rent and bills or take a look into my savings accounts? Paycheck to paycheck is how I live. Then tell me how rich and privileged I am.”
Okay. I will. But first why not join me in taking a look at our lifestyles, not from the way we usually think of them as members in good standing of the world’s most prosperous society, but as most of the world views us.
Attitude of Gratitude:
Replacing Fear with Peace
The average American is feeling insecure and deprived these days. This is because we are compare our situation today to the way things used to be. Or it is because we compare our lives to the lifestyles of the rich and famous. This includes the Wall Street crowd, dot.com moguls, superstars, sports figures, our more prosperous neighbors as well as make believe people in the television shows and movies we watch. As a result, we suffer from a skewed perception about what it means to be poor or rich. Much of the time we are in the habit of focusing on what we don’t have rather than on an appreciation of what we do.
Consider for a moment what living at the official US Poverty rate is like. I found a website that walks you through budgeting for a family of 4 on roughly $18,000 annually. Take a look for a moment and compare it to your life. Click below:
Yet the truth is that from a global point of view even the family scraping by in poverty by US standards is well off compared to the vast majority of the world’s population.
Like to feel better about your economic life? You might start by asking yourself this Thanksgiving.
- Do I and my family have enough food to eat?
- Is my water drinkable (not polluted)?
- Do I have adequate sanitation facilities?
- Am I sheltered from the elements?
- Do I have access to medical care?
- Am I safe from harm from enemies?
- Do my children have an opportunity to be educated?
If your answers are “yes”, then by world standards, you are doing just fine.
In a sense, everything else we enjoy on top of this is sheer abundance.
True the US official “poverty level” for a family of four is an income of about $18,000 a year and many are forced to live on less than that. But in Zambia, for example, an average family currently lives on less than $400 a year. 45 families in Zambia living on an income we consider poverty for a single US family.
The most economically challenged among us can usually afford an place to live. Our tap water is safe to drink. Even our least privileged of us usually have clothes to wear and enough food to eat. Most of us have appliances such as microwave ovens, refrigerators, electric or gas stoves, a telephone and a television, even a dvd player and ipod. Every resident of the US has access to free public libraries where we can take out books, tapes and even works of art. Ambulances and fire-fighting equipment are readily available when needed. All children receive a free, public school education through 12th grade.There are health programs like Medicaid, Medicare. And social security provides a modest continuous lifetime retirement income.
Gratitude: Glass is Half Full
You might think appreciating what you have whether you compare yourself to US poverty or global conditions is pollyanna thinking, especially since all of us are motivated to improve our life style. And, as Americans we tend to believe that hard work will pay off in the long run and we will better ourselves in the future. It is almost like being satisfied with what you have (thankful) is almost unAmerican.
What’s more, economic life in this country of ours seems hardly fair these days. We see executives of companies that lose billions of dollars continue to pay themselves tens of millions in salaries and bonuses while our government writes out virtually blank checks to them on our behalf for hundreds of billions. Yet many of us not have gotten a real increase in salary for close to a decade. And it is undeniable and shameful that there are people working long hours at minimum wage yet still live below the official poverty line. In fact, 10% of Rhode Island is currently unemployed. And, yes, there are people in our community who need our support for shelter and nourishment.
Today’s USA may be far from paradise. But, as anyone who has traveled widely will likely agree, there is a lot here for each of us for which to give thanks.
So, why not take a moment to push back from the Thanksgiving Day today and ask yourself how a typical person living in China, Ghana, Pakistan, Congo, India or Guyana would look at how you live. Or even (corny as it may sound) take a moment to write out a family gratitude list this year. You may be surprised at how wealthy you really are.
By the way, you might want to visit a few other sites today:
Rhode Island Food Bank http://rifoodbank.org/what-we-do/hunger-facts-resources/
Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless