Our dog peed on the girls’s backpacks. I think it is a passive aggressive thing. He thought: “You pay more attention to the newspaper than me. I will show you.” He peed on Elise’s math test. There is some symbolism there.
One of the things I taught while in America was about freedom. Sounds like a theme from the barricades, but I actually had a different freedom in mind this time. I have been thinking about the abundance we have in our free countries. Freedom to do this and freedom to do that. To buy happiness is one of our greatest freedoms. We can shop for joy. We can work ourselves to death in order to get everything we want.
I have thought about one of the most shocking thing I have discovered since moving to Norway a year ago. While we live in what is commonly referred to as the best nation in the world—we are rich, we have great schools, hospitals, free time, social welfare that makes other people jealous, we have fresh air and mountains, we have yummy cheese and chocolate. There isn’t much we don’t have, except Starbucks. And yet, people are sick. Sick from stress, sick from worry, and generally discontent. People are not able to work because of their stress related diseases. We are a sick nation, in the midst of all our freedom and riches.
At the same time I have spent time with refugees from Burma, who are poor and un-free. They have nothing, not even a birth certificate. They don’t know what they will eat the next day. They only own one outfit. They must walk for miles to gather food. And yet, I have never once met one who has a stress related disease. They have other diseases, sure. Like malaria a and dysentery. They die from those. But never from stress.
So what’s the deal? I think it has to do with our attitudes. Here in the West we have not learned to die to our desires and our stuff. We believe that true contentment comes from always having more, not just stuff, but more friends, more status, more toys, more fame.
I am reminded that everything we have is a gift that we get to be the stewards of. None of it belongs to us. Not our stuff, reputation, our job, our careers. It’s not ours.
This is what the refugees have learned. Because they do not own anything, therefore they have nothing to lose. Another thing I have seen is that for what they have their are thankful. I have experienced more thankfulness and gratitude among the people of Burma than I have here.
Odd isn’t it.