I started my day in the exact opposite way I should have. I started it with a seemingly endless barrage of complaints.
As I woke up this morning (late; which has been a usual trend for me lately), I started by complaining to myself about how much I absolutely did not want to go to work. I went on to complain to myself about having to iron my clothes. I made a fuss about not having anything good to eat for breakfast. As I stopped to get gas, I complained to myself about how my $43 wasn't even enough for a fill up. Traveling along the expressway, I complained to myself about the inconvenience of road construction and lousy drivers who made it worse. Arriving on campus, I complained to myself about the double-parking job some student pulled in faculty/staff ramp; where they should not have even been in the first place. As I arrived at my office, I found myself complaining about my packed schedule and my overwhelming workload. I even took a moment to complain about the perfume one of my co-workers was wearing.
On and on I complained about how everything was annoying me. I mean, I've been profuse with my complaining before, but today was just one of those days.
Inexplicably, God put it on my heart to check out CNN. On the site, there was coverage about the twister in Iowa that killed four boys at a summer camp; along with all of the other tornadoes that have been ravaging the central and midwest parts of the country. Reports have been coming in from numerous states tracking the destruction -- both in property and lives -- brought about by the recent rash of storms. From reading that, my mind immediately shifted to the deadly cyclone that recently leveled Southeast Asia; creating an estimated death toll of 22,500 (with another 41,000+ missing). I also recalled the time when Pakistan was destroyed by a massive earthquake; which killed about 73,000 people; along with the recent earthquake in China which tallied a death toll of over 61,000. I remembered the Indian Ocean tsunami that wiped out 11 countries, killing an estimated 225,000 people (possibly more). The ever-increasing mass murdering in Darfur also came to mind. I even started to think about the time I recently spent in New Orleans. At that point, I buried my face in my hands; feeling nothing but shame. Here I am itemizing my calamities like my name was Job or something; while other folks in this world are truly suffering.
- While I complained about dragging myself out of bed, a child in Indonesia just arose from the street where they slept the night before.
- While I complained about having to iron my clothes, a flood victim in the midwest just lost every single possesion they've ever owned.
- While I complained about having an unsavory food selection in my fridge, there is an ongoing food crisis around the world.
- While I complained about how hot it was in my apartment, another family in Darfur was just raped, tortured, or murdered.
- While I complained how underpaid I am at my job, unemployment offices are filling up all over the country.
- While I complained about rising gas prices, a mother in China is arranging her child's burial.
- While I complained about some of the people I don't like, my dear friend Sylvia has been going through the unimaginable with some close people in her life.
What I realize after some contemplation is that it is very easy to overlook your blessings. At times, we feel so entitled that we even go as far as to expect for things to go our way all the time. So when life deviates from our blueprint of expectancy, we gripe about it. I'm probably the worse one in the pack. I mean, I make no bones about the fact that I can be a real jerk sometimes. My blog often reflects that. While I try to use my blog responsibly as a general clearinghouse to express my "thoughts, reflections, and rants", I admit that I can go over the top with the "rants" part at times. Don't get me wrong: I think it's important to be critical of things (especially with our religious/community/political leaders and the goings on that are socially impactful). But I think that it's equally important to accentuate all the positivity associated with our blessings.
God has been too good to me (and indeed, to us all) for me to spend too much time focusing on the miniscule things bothering me. That being the case, I've decided to once again challenge myself to go on a complaining fast. The concept is simple: whenever you feel the need to gripe about something (especially verbally) substitute that urge with either a word of thanks to God for His bountiful blessings and/or a thought or action for our brothers and sisters who are dealing with difficult situations.
It is important to remember that we are citizens of this God-given world. As such, we should make it a point to do as much as possible to leave it and its residents a little better off than we found them. This starts by being mindful of the 'least of these'; while discounting the inconsequential things that may betide us. At the end of the day -- considering all the tragic things going on in the lives of ordinary people; my paying $4 a gallon for gas doesn't seem as bad.
Please keep the world in your prayers. And, when possible, get those hands dirty.