I started the day in a foul mood.
Drivers around me blocked intersections, changed lanes without signaling, cut from every side and came right at me, on my lane. I was fuming in the car, wanting to yell at everyone, and then…
I had an air-conditioned car all to myself.
At that very hour, while I was driving, multitudes were running after jeepneys, squeezing into trains, crossing rice fields and mountains on foot, riding rickety boats along rivers — just to get to school or work.
The thoughts were like a glass of cold water poured on my head. How entitled and ungrateful!
My disposition shifted for the rest of the drive as I prodded myself to continue reflecting:
Last night I slept soundly, with a roof over my head and with no thoughts of any threat to my family’s safety.
I have enough food to eat today, and the possibility of going hungry tomorrow does not cross my mind.
Any piece of news related to the war in Marawi, the administration’s drug war and the overall peace and order in my country causes no apparent disruption in my day to day life. These days, I’m hardly exposed to places or situations in which I can be the victim of a heinous crime (either by a drug addict or by other criminal elements), a target of gunmen in motorcycles, or a fatality of “tokhang” operations.
The thought was disconcerting.
There is a scene in the 90’s movie, “With Honors,” in which a Harvard student (played by Brendan Fraser), looks out the window of his apartment to the street where his new acquaintance, a homeless, middle-aged man (played by Joe Pesci) is getting ready to sleep. The student asks, “Why am I here, and why is he there?”
I never did forget that scene. The student’s question cannot be answered by a dismissive and condescending, “Thank you, Lord, that I am so blessed (and far better off than he)!”
Why indeed? Let’s face the mirror and ask ourselves:
Why do I have _______________? (wealth? power? success?)
Why am I _______________? (smart? talented? strong? comfortable? privileged? free?)
And here’s where it gets even more cringe-inducing:
Why is it that I have so indignified the marginalized and the suffering, those who have less than what I have, who are in circumstances less desirable than mine, whom I deem weaker than I am…such that I have turned them into my personal therapy?
“Going to the slums made me more thankful for the blessings I have”
“Okay, I’m gonna stop whining. At least I am not paralyzed like that man.”
“Listening to her story made me realize how small my problems are.”
“Helping the poor gives me such a good feeling.”
Truly God deserves all praise and thanksgiving for all He has given us — for His saving love, His daily mercies, His faithfulness, His provision of our physical and spiritual needs. But beyond thankfulness is accountability, and compassion, which is why the more I grasp God’s blessings to me, the more discomfort I have —
For I know I have been falling short in following the precept that the LORD has given since the time of Abraham:
I will bless you…and you will be a blessing. (Genesis 12:2)
My blessings are not just for my enjoyment, but are meant to benefit others.
They are for sharing (not on Instagram or Facebook!) — compelled by no less than the love of Christ who has Himself given His all to me.
They are for giving, not to fulfill a desire to feel good (and oh-so-subtly pride-ful!) about myself, but to be faithful to the call to no longer live for myself but for him who died for me and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:15).
I have so much more growing to do in this area. I pray that God will continue to urge me to do more, to be braver, to love myself less, and to have a deeper commitment to give of myself to others.
In the end, that’s what true blessing must be all about.