We Have the Right to be Thankful
It is evident that many people in America feel a sense of entitlement. No, I am not speaking of lazy people who want a handout or a free ride. I am speaking of people from all walks of life, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, people of all races and all religions who proudly call themselves Americans. It could be any of us of whom I speak.
When we get frustrated over meaningless inconveniences, annoyed by minor discomforts, or envious over what our neighbor has that we do not, we are exhibiting an attitude of entitlement. It is an attitude that says that we should not have to be unconvinced or deprived or made uncomfortable. Why? The answer is clear, we are accustomed to privileges that we have come to take for granted. It is only when we intentionally remove ourselves, mentally or physically, from our private little world that we wake up to how good we have it - even if we do not have it good compared to our neighbors.
I recently traveled to Saigon in South Vietnam. It was my first trip abroad. I will never forget it. Saigon is not remote; it is not gripped with famine, nor is it some primitive place forgotten by time. However, there are over 8 million people in that city and it possesses every extreme you could imagine. The people were wonderful. The food was beyond bad. There was great beauty and there was unbelievable filth. Much of it, one would have to see to believe.
Of course, Vietnam has a communist government and restricts freedoms. Most Americans that I know of - including myself - would find it difficult to live there because of the inconveniences, low standard of living, crowding, pitiful medical system, etc.... Yet, the people were gracious and kind and went about their daily lives seemingly unfazed by all that left me thinking "I couldn't take this." I was having "entitlement" withdrawals.
Someone writing in Christianity Today several years ago said, " Shall I thank God this Thanksgiving? Why was I born at this particular time in the history of the world? Why was I born in a spotless delivery room in an American hospital instead of a steaming shelter in the dark jungle of the Amazon or a mud hut in Africa? Why did I have the privilege of going to school with capable instructors while millions around the world, without a school book, sit or squat on a dirt floor listening to a missionary?
"How does it happen that my children are tucked into warm beds at night with clean white sheets while millions of babies in the world will lie in cold rooms, many in their own filth and vomit? Why can I sit down to a warm meal whenever I want to eat and eat too much when millions will know all of their lives the gnawing pangs of hunger? Do I deserve to share in such wealth? Why me and not other millions? Why was I born in a land I didn't build, in a prosperity that I didn't create and enjoy a freedom that I didn't establish? Why an American sitting comfortably in my own living room this Thanksgiving rather than an Indian squatting in the dark corner of some infested alley in Calcutta, shivering in the cold, or a Cambodian in the rubble of what used to be my home, or a terrified, running Nicaraguan in the jungle? Do I deserve it? By what right do I have it?"
I know that I enjoy certain rights by virtue of my birth in America. Freedom is a privilege purchased and passed on to me as an American by others. However, when I begin to believe that I deserve those freedoms and blessings more than others in this world I have fallen into a mentality of entitlement. This way of thinking can distort my entire outlook on life and cause me to forget that the greatest right I have is the right to be thankful.