Observing the enormous challenges faced by most Guatemalans and particularly the residents of the remote villages where we ran our medical clinic, I wondered why I had been so fortunate to be born in the United States. (excerpt from The Race Before Us)
More coincidences – disparate events and thoughts that seem to reveal meaning and purpose. (If you have not visited these posts before, for other posts about these “coincidences, see this post and then this post.)
Cheryl has almost finished a book (Behind the Beautiful Forevers) about life (and death) and the tremendous challenge of living in severe poverty in India – and in particular the slums of Mumbai (briefly depicted in the movie Slumdog Millionaire). This weekend we discussed my trip to India this past fall and the hopelessness that seemed to overwhelm much of “life” in those circumstances.
The same day, I received a belated Christmas card from grammar school children in Chennai, India. (Belated due to international mail service and the need to re-route the card from Atlanta,where it was received.) The purpose of the card was for the young students to extend their thanks and best wishes to me for participating in their school opening his past fall. They were grateful of the Wellspring International ministry of RZIM, which made their opportunity for education (and their hope for a better life) possible.
Recently, after a brief blessing over a lunch meal, a friend commented to me that gratefulness was among the few most critical character traits. He went on to explain that conversations with his brother-in-law revealed that he seemed to have no sense of gratitude. Rather, the brother-in-law was satisfied that anything good things that he had or experienced was the result of his hard effort and good decision-making.
This recalled a message I heard from Michael Ramsden about the importance of not only being grateful, but the need to have someone to whom we are grateful. After all, if we are grateful for the job we have, for the children we have, the roof over our head, or the freedom to express ourselves on a public bog post or in the public square – to whom are we grateful? It would seem that to answer this question, we need to consider the source of the goodness or blessings that we have received. How can we be “generally grateful.” If we are the mere product of time, chance, and matter – things just happen. But when we receive goodness and blessings there is a source – it didn’t just happen. So, we are grateful to the source of those blessings. So, I’m grateful to Harry for buying lunch and I’m grateful to a stranger for letting me merge easily into a row of traffic, and I’m grateful to clients for entrusting me with their work, and I ‘m grateful to my parents (for an awful lot, but particularly) for permitting me to attend William & Mary (when it was not an insignificant expense for a Connecticut Yankee), which did so much to change my life. So, you get the point. We should not take things for granted. We should acknowledge the source of blessings.
The original motivation for this post was to simply, but publicly, express my gratitude to Altria. (We should not take Altria’s contributions to our community for granted.) So, back to the original purpose. This past weekend I had the privilege to attend the Richmond Forum – one of our favorite things to do. While most of us here have many wonderful memories from attending a variety of musical performances, speakers, and other cultural events at “The Mosque” or its more recent name, the “Landmark Theater,” we also know that for too many years this historic performance hall has a worn and tired look – mostly because the building is worn and tired. Built in 1927 and known as “The Mosque” and more recently the Landmark Theater, the magnificent structure has suffered from a lack of adequate funds for proper up keep and modernization. This past Saturday, however, the look and feel was very different. It was new and clean and fresh – new seats, new bathrooms, new sound system, and much more.
We were able to enjoy an evening with George W. Bush at the Richmond Forum (for which I am grateful to Davenport, Wells Fargo, Genworth, Dominion and Altria), which is held at the New “Altria Theater.” Perhaps not everyone loves George W. Bush – I for one am grateful for his service to our country. Perhaps not everyone loves Altria because of some of their products – I do not like some of their products, but they are not illegal. I am grateful that Altria continues to give back to our community – AND I’m grateful to God for “being so fortunate” to live where we can disagree peaceably about George Bush and Altria in the public square.