It’s one of those things we often forget.
The weather gets us down (though it’s been pretty good these last few days); the government gets us down – some things never change; we have some health issues; we have problems with the car, the roof needs fixing. So we can get wrapped up in the things that a wrong with life, the things that make it frustrating (and believe me, I could produce a very long list of them here, but I won’t), and the things that we don’t like.
What we forget is how fortunate we are. One of the things that I try to do in Meeting on a Sunday (I should do it more regularly, but at least on a Sunday morning I have a space to do it and no excuses for not doing it) is to consider why I am incredibly fortunate.
I have just looked on the Internet for some of the images and messages that sometimes land in our inboxes or on our Facebook timelines that remind us of this. Here are just some:
- I am alive.
- I am able to see the sunrise and the sunset.
- I am able to music and bird song
- I can walk outside and feel the breeze through your hair and the sun’s warmth on your skin.
- I didn’t go to sleep hungry last night.
- I awoke this morning with a roof over your head.
- I had a choice of what clothes to wear.
- I have access to clean drinking water.
- I have access to medical care.
- I have access to the Internet.
- I can read.
- I haven’t feared for my life today or ever, really.
- I have had some challenges, and I have learned and survived.
- I have – mostly – the freedom to make my own decisions.
- I live in a country that protects my basic human rights and civil liberties. And even if it’s far from perfect, it’s a lot better than some places.
- I have a friends or relatives who look forward to our next get-together.
There are many of these lists on the Internet, some designed in a very eye-catching and mind-catching way. Here is one example that I like.
It reminded me of a song, sung by Joan Baez on one of her early records (you know, when they still had vinyl) called ‘There but for fortune’. It was actually written by Phil Ochs and the words are:
Why I am writing about this?
Because I want to remind myself and all of us that this kind of ‘being fortunate’ – not earned, not deserved, just given to us because of where and when we were born and where we live – brings with it responsibility. Responsibility to share what of that fortune we can share – and speaking strictly for myself, I don’t think I ever do enough of that; responsibility to keep in mind our fortune and stop complaining when a few things go wrong; responsibility to identify the reasons why others are so much less fortunate than we are and to do something, anything, to change that.
The responsibility that comes from the recognition (so ably expressed by William Penn in 1682) that ‘True Godliness does not turn people out of the world but enables them to live better in it, and excites their endeavours to mend it; not hide their candle under a bushel, but to set it upon a table in a candlestick.’