It's easy to forget to count your blessings sometimes, especially in times of hardship and stress. The holidays are known to provide these in abundance. The grinch had wormed his way into my heart this last week or two and I found myself worrying about buying Christmas gifts and making preparations, packing to go visit family, cooking special treats for school and work. It's all just too much! Life is crazy enough without adding all these things to my to-do list. I'm sure you moms, in particular, can understand.
Each of my kids has an "Advent Family" assigned to their classroom at school, this is a family in need that each classroom buys gifts for. It's a beautiful thing, to think of others in need at this time of year especially, but as I purchased gift cards for these families, I found myself wondering if we will ever qualify to be an Advent Family. How close we must be to the requirements, I think, with seven kids and two small salaries from working at a Catholic school. We don't spend our money on anything crazy, no vacations, no nice cars, no big house even though we could fill it. We juuuuuust barely get by, between our mortgage, medical insurance, grocery bills, car payment, school tuition, daycare and all the other daily needs required for this family of nine. We aren't saving for our kid's college - we aren't saving much for retirement - we haven't even been saving for Christmas presents! How on earth am I supposed to make it all happen?
Last week, I was driving Andrew to a basketball game and, having come straight from church, he hadn't eaten yet. I stopped to get him a quick bite at McDonald's and he wanted a breakfast sandwich. They were 2 for $5 so I bought two, knowing that someone in the house would eat the other one when I returned home. But do you know what happened on my way home? I saw a homeless man begging in the street (sadly there are far too many of them around) and I put down my window to ask him if he wanted a sandwich. He said "Yes, I'm starving" and I handed him my extra sandwich. Now I don't share this story to brag (in fact, I purposefully haven't shared it thinking it would earn me bonus points for doing a good deed unnoticed!) but I share it now because here I was, thinking about how little we have, when I could easily give this man a sandwich from my excess. From my excess.
It's disheartening sometimes to look around and compare yourself, your family, your life, to those who have more than you. You can feel unhappy and wonder why life is so unfair. But what if you only compared what you have to those who have less than you? Suddenly, all the gifts and blessings in your life come into full view and you can see with clarity how much you have to be thankful for. My husband will often remind me to "compare down" when I can get dramatically hopeless about our financial state. He will remind me that among our friends and family we may feel that we have the least, but among most families throughout the world, we are rich beyond belief. And almost all of our riches aren't even the kind you can buy at a store, they are better than anything, they are priceless. This attitude of gratitude can sometimes be hard to feel, but try comparing down when you're tempted to compare up, and hopefully one day we won't be tempted to compare at all, but instead be happily content with all the goodness in our lives.