Soon after writing you this past letter asking what breaks your heart, I happened across this Facebook status of a friend of Lydia’s. This is a prime example, on so many levels, of American consumerism that breaks my heart. When I read it, I wasn’t even as mad as I was sad. Sad for the person who wrote it, sad for the lack of perspective we as Americans have, sad for the friends who didn’t speak up against the perspective, and sad for the people who she wrote her mini-letter to. The update said this:
Dear Middle East & Africa,
I would rather spend $50 on clothing or shoes, instead of my gas tank. Please get your act together, asap.
A broke & concerned US citizen
Wow. I could dissect this this almost word for word, but I’ll let you do this. I don’t want to seem like that angry old man who only finds fault in the world, because I want to be known as the optimistic man who spreads hope through the world.
That said, the above quote demonstrates two areas, directly connected, that need addressed in our culture: an obsession with ourselves, and a blatant neglect of others. We constantly default to think about ourselves – in this case, bemoan about not being able to spend $50 on shoes. Never-mind the fact that we even have $50 – an amount most of the world can’t even fathom. Never-mind we live in a country where we have access to gas, and the ability to drive vehicles we use the gas for. Never-mind our country isn’t at war with each other and we don’t have to fear for our lives each hour of each day.
And when we obsess over ourselves, we then lose perspective of others. In this case, the people on the verge of civil war – constantly fearing death of loved ones and death themselves. How can we even complain about expensive gas when people’s lives are being terminated by chaos and dictatorship? Do we really lose that much perspective? Yes, we do – and I constantly have to fight to retain it. I’m not excluding myself from this (hence the inclusive pronouns of my letters).
The last part I’ll point out in the quote is the signature: “Sincerely, a broke & concerned US citizen.” Each word can be examined. Sincerely: really? With all sincerity you write this letter? You’re sincerely that self-absorbed? Broke: don’t get me started about being “broke” if you can afford a car – and gas. Concerned: concerned about what? Your shoes or the people being killed in the Middle East? US Citizen: she must have no idea how much of a privilege being a citizen of a free nation is, and I personally become embarrassed when fellow citizens act this way.
But my main reason in writing you this letter isn’t so much to bash and slander my fellow man. It’s to remind you that the loss of perspective is a rampant disease in our country and culture – and if you’re not constantly aware of it, you’ll be assimilated into thinking the same way.
I am not friends with the girl who wrote the Facebook status, and so it was by no measure acceptable for me to respond – but I wish someone who does know her would respond. And I’d encourage you to be bold and correct the lack of perspective you witness in your own friends’ lives, and to encourage your friends to correct your own lack of perspective at time. We all need help in doing so.
I’ll wrap up with this, Jack: chances are, you are blessed beyond the comprehension of most people in this world. Please don’t forget that. And since we are blessed, we have an obligation to take care of those who may not be as blessed. Till next time, Jack,