Tuesday, December 25, 2007

on fitting the mold of stereotypical american ignorance

Somehow, even though it just started, the end of the Christmas Season is crashing in upon us, and in twenty-four hours, to me at least, it will probably seem like lifetimes ago. I have learned a lot of lessons these past two seasons. Fall and winter, that is. I think there are periods in every person’s life that tend to feel more like learning seasons than others; this is one of mine.

Tonight my family and I went to see ‘Charlie Wilson’s War.’

We were some of the first people arriving, so obviously picked the best seats for optimal viewing pleasure. Brittany and I propped up our feet happily on the chairs in front of us, thinking it was Christmas Eve and it would probably remain a mostly-empty theater. Much to the peril of our legroom, however, an enormous family event or gathering came and filled up half the theater. My sister and I exchanged glances, or at least I did, and reluctantly confined my legs to the space in front of me.

The movie was about the Cold War, about people in the Middle East getting butchered by the Soviet Union. They showed clips of refugee camps, of children with arms that had been blown off, heard one little boy’s testimony of how a child he knew got split in half thinking a shiny bomb was a toy. Tents and poverty stretched as far as the eye could see. At one point, one of the characters from America asks a little girl, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with good intentions. I mentally winced when I imagined what the response might have been.

‘Alive,’ I thought. Just alive.

My car is packed and ready to drive home from here in Seattle tomorrow, and it is loaded with more presents than half the world could ever hope for, and as the credits rolled, I realized how petty my worldview has become, and how shallow I can be. There are countries filled with people who, from our standpoint, would have no reason to wake up in the morning. They worry about bombs, or open gunfire, or their children being blown into unrecognizable pieces.

And I worry about legroom.

I’m so tired of being an ignorant nation. Of people who turn on each other, and people who claim to hate those on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Of people who focus so much on differences than the aspirations we all share. I’m so tired of being part of a people who can rest easily knowing the conflict is far away tonight; knowing that at least we have a safe roof over our own heads. It’s so easy to ignore genocide and war when it’s not in our backyard isn’t it? I, like most, am also thankful for a roof over my head; for gifts and new memories to take home with me. Those are great things, and I’m not implying we should not enjoy them. But unlike most, for some reason I can’t just rest easy anymore. My heart is filled with unrest, knowing that my world is changing, and I know nothing of it. Political boundaries are being defined, nations are being crumbled, people are dying and I don’t even know where most of those countries are on a map.

I was really convicted today.

Bill, my stepdad, was sort of weird this morning, a little bit left-of-center. We opened stockings this morning (we celebrate a day early because us kids leave tomorrow) and he didn’t seem quite right. “I just feel that there are needy people, hungry people, in our area, and we spent all this money on knick-knacks and things we don’t really need,” he explained, after being approached. “We, unlike half the world, have everything we need, and almost anything we want. When will we ever use this, or that?”

Our family’s table sat in uncomfortable silence.

“I agree,” someone voiced. “Then let’s pick up all our presents and give them to a kid in downtown Seattle,” Bill retorted, knowing it was easier said than done. In the end, we decided to work out a plan next year with fewer gifts, and more giving. Surprisingly, the whole group of us was excited about it. But the way he was passionately disturbed about it struck a chord in me. I want to be that passionate about things that really matter. Not my Christmas list. Not the new iPod, or the new laptops, or the latest fashion trends.

We are blessed beyond what we could ever dream, in abundance or need. I know not everyone follows Jesus, and I’m not saying I do the greatest job, but even if you just think he was a great guy, he pushed feeding the poor. The hungry. The needy. He pushed for love over hate and peace above violence. Most of all, just love.

And I want to be more like that. Socially conscious and active instead of asleep.

I know the world is big, and we individually are small. I know sometimes in the rush of life, it’s hard to stop and take a moment to think of those less fortunate than you are. I know we get consumed in our coffee cups every morning, in traffic and in the work days that never seem to end. But I suppose what I’m getting at is that change starts with attitude in one. And when that attitude turns to an action, even if it seems small, it’s still getting us someplace.

Have a great rest of the season… enjoy time with others, in your relationships and the way you interact. And when you give thanks this year, be it in prayer or just in your soul, be sure to give thanks for the little things.

Because I’m realizing that it’s the little things in life, that make life everything.

Merry Christmas.

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