Friday, December 15, 2017

Comparing Down (for a Pick Me Up)

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.


  1. Compare down! I love it! I often have to remind myself of this same thing. Have a great weekend.

  2. Compare down... that is helpful beyond words. I get stuck in this ALL THE TIME. We literally are the "poorest" of our friends, family, people our age etc. But you're right. We are so immeasurably blessed in so many ways.

  3. Our priest gave a homily on this recently and I couldn't agree more. He said the same thing, don't compare yourself to those more fortunate, but to those less fortunate.

  4. I can hardly type as I write this because I am CRYING. We are now one of the families to compare down to. My husband and I grew up in hard working middle class families. We both went to college. We started out our marriage with everything looking great especially since we met and married later in life, so we both had successful careers. However, my husband has been unemployed/underemployed for years. He is no longer appealing to hire at this previous level due to his age. I work for a small Catholic school, and have not had success in finding something for more money. Thank God my mom came to our rescue and took us into her home. We are so fortunate to have a roof over our head and food on our table. Due to a work bonus, we have also been able to buy presents for Christmas. We have a very loving marriage and wonderful, healthy children, but this is not the life I every imagined for us. I worry everyday about something going wrong with our one vehicle. I worry everyday about something happening with our health. Never have I been more focused on thanking God for what we do have. Never have I been more dedicated to prayer and putting my trust in God. Merry Christmas to you and your family. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Oh Brenda! My heart goes out to you, we were on the brink of financial disaster earlier in our marriage and I know how you feel. Let's storm heaven for better employment for your family! So thankful that you haven't lost the faith, that's so crucial for your family to keep it alive. Hugs from across the internet!

  5. Many prayers for Brenda and her family. God bless, Brenda.

    A very timely post indeed. I went to our advent penance service last night. I seriously need an attitude adjustment. We have so much to be thankful for and all I do is compare up so much that it depresses me. We have friends and family who take cruises and vacations (overseas!) several times a year and yet we slog along with a mortgage, car payment, many bills, etc. This house we bought 2 1/2 years ago is a money pit. I know my husband would have preferred to continue renting for a while longer. But to compare down (I love this phrase!) is truly what I need to do. I have so, so much that I'm not grateful for and that needs to change. Thank you so much for this, Colleen.


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