Tag Archive | thankful

Being Content: In the Midst of Typhoons, Tornadoes, Thanksgiving and Black Friday Sales

By Karen Hendricks

Typhoon Haiyan 2

Debris lines the streets of Tacloban, Leyte island. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Today, as I write this, there are horrific scenes coming out of the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan: complete devastation, bodies in makeshift graves, debris everywhere. The scenes out of America’s mid-west are also disturbing. Tornadoes ravaged Illinois and Indiana last weekend, however, thankfully the death toll was extremely low. Natural disasters are especially hard to comprehend during the holiday season.

Turn on the TV or radio (even the :15 ads on Pandora Radio), check your mailbox, pick up a newspaper, and you’ll be bombarded by ads promoting Black Friday specials. The Christmas holiday season however, doesn’t seem to be kicking off on Black Friday. Instead, it’s invading the turkey-induced peacefulness of Thanksgiving evening. Lots of stores are opening their doors Thursday night so that shoppers can allegedly get the best bargains. What happened to the meaning behind Thanksgiving, the thankfulness that we’re supposed to be honoring?

So in the wake of natural disasters, death, devastation and the pure greed of Black Thursday/Friday shopping… I am offering a solution: being content.

Last spring, I wrote about “the margins” in our lives (click here)—the need for unstructured time in which to breathe, reconnect with friends and family and simply “be.” I have since finished reading the book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. My women’s group had some awesome discussions that are still rattling around in my brain!

One of the lasting impressions from this book is the idea of being “content.” What does it truly mean to be content? I thought I knew… but the book helped me to see contentedness in a new light.

From the chapter “Health Through Contentment,” under the subtitle “Inextinguishable Discontent,” Swenson writes, “Discontent as a driving force for a society might make that society rich, but it will bankrupt it in the end. As the coffer fills, the soul empties.”

I always thought of “contentment” as “happiness,” being satisfied with what I had, what I earned, where I was in life. However since the book Margin is written from a Christian perspective, Swenson defines contentment as a two-step process: not only accepting whatever comes from God’s hand, but also putting our faith and trust in God. It’s having a peaceful, secure feeling that God has our back. It’s “a joy that exists in spite of circumstances and looks to the God who never varies.”

Swenson writes that contentment is not:

  • “the comfortable feeling of well-being when all our needs and desires are met”
  • Pursuit of the American dream
  • Keeping our circumstances under control
  • Pretending that things are right when they’re not

Consulting another source… Being content is defined as “An internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances.”—Holman Bible Dictionary

I know it’s a lot to absorb! But more and more, given the headlines, I am trying to be content, at peace, and thankful.

One other area of my life has me examining this feeling of contentment. So many friends of mine are returning to work, driven by a desperate feeling that they need to earn money towards their children’s college fund(s). Let me tell you, as a parent of a college freshman, I can testify that the cost of college can indeed send you into a tailspin. And I don’t blame them for feeling this sense of desperation.

However, I realize more and more that I am not living out “the norm” by stepping off the merry-go-round of crazy-paced, full-time employment while many of my friends are jumping back on that same carousel. Working for myself, enjoying a handful of clients and the work they send my way, has given me wonderful fulfillment, more time for my family and finally—some margin in my life. A combination of factors helps us afford the cost of college: yes, both of our jobs for which we are thankful, but also an examination of our family spending and our efforts to reduce those costs where we can—trimming our phone/cable bills, trimming grocery bills, cutting out extravagances, etc. This helps separate needs from wants. It’s a challenge, in our society, to be content with life and put complete faith in God.

Food for thought, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday.

Wishing all of our readers a joyful, blessed Thanksgiving—filled with a renewed sense of contentment. 

Typhoon Haiyan

Philippine civilians walk out of what remains of the Guiuan East Central Elementary School in Guiuan, Philippines, Nov. 17, 2013. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Typhoon Haiyan 3

A Guiuan woman stands outside of her makeshift shack in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

 

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Change Your Perspective

(Photo Credit: AP) Absorbing the impact of Hurricane Sandy

By Mary Ann Filler

I am thankful!  I am thankful for many things, including the love of an amazing family, a roof over my head, clothing and food.  I am thankful that we live in a country that allows its citizens to vote for our leaders and worship freely.  I hope that you have a thankful spirit as well.  If not, then consider changing your perspective…

As I sat down to put the finishing touches on what I thought would be my next blog, I just couldn’t bring myself to complete it.  I was writing about meal planning and preparation. However, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and an election that has divided our great country seemingly right down the middle, it just didn’t seem fitting or proper to blog on such a mundane topic.  Instead, I thought that we all might benefit from gaining some perspective.

While reading news items online regarding the hurricane victims, I saw an image of two elderly people rooting through a dumpster for food and was brought to tears.   How humbling of an experience that must have been.  Perhaps there was a time just a few short weeks ago that they had plenty or even an abundance of food to eat.  Then, I got to thinking that for some of our fellow Americans this is indeed a normal occurrence.

(Photo Credit: Jonathan Vigliotti, Twitter) Desperate families in East Village dumpster dive for discarded groceries.

(Photo Credit: Reuters) Hurricane Sandy victims are helped by a volunteer to load food and other items from a FEMA and American Red Cross aid and disaster relief station in the hard-hit Staten Island section of New York City November 2, 2012.

(Photo Credit: KatieCouric.com) Jon Bon Jovi makes sandwiches for hurricane victims at his soup kitchen in Red Bank, NJ.

Admittedly, there are times when I struggle to prepare meals.  Not because my family lacks resources, but because we’re spoiled.  Our children have had the luxury of picking and choosing what they “like” to eat rather than eating because they are hungry.  Of course, they will tell you that they are “starving” and want to know when dinner will be ready.  But, in truth, they do not know what it is to go hungry; nor do I for that matter.

Seeing people in these hurricane ravaged areas who have perhaps never gone hungry a day in their life, has given me something to consider as I catch myself “complaining” about food preparation.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook, but my biggest dilemma is what to have for dinner.  Now that seems so trivial and ridiculous.

When considering others who are less fortunate, there are other domestic duties that can be thought of with a new perspective.  For example, when I go into my laundry room and the laundry is piled to the ceiling, I can look at that pile in a new light.  My family is well clothed.  If any one of the members of my family was no longer with us, I would not have as much laundry, but would that be better?  I have the resources of clean water and a washer and dryer.  For many in our country and world, these basic needs are not met.

Photo Credit: David Handschuh, New York Daily News. Photographer David Handschuh explains just how devastating this storm has been for the New York City community. “I’ve covered earthquakes, hurricanes and a slew of disasters both man made and natural around the world for the Daily News over the last 25 years, but the level of damage and the amount of destruction I witnessed in Breezy Point, the Rockaways and along Cross Bay Blvd. is of unbelievable proportion.” Here, some of that damage is seen in Breezy Point on Nov. 1, 2012.

There is another area that I believe we all might benefit from some perspective.  How about the recent election?  Did your “man” win?  As I’m writing this, our country does not yet know who will be our president the next four years.  Regardless of the outcome, I hope that all of you will consider that there are countries in our world that don’t have the right to vote.  Recently, I read that the Chinese delight in speculating whether President Barack Obama will fend off Republican challenger Mitt Romney, but they are more captivated by Americans’ ability to vote for their leader. Their own leaders are distant figures whom they have no way of replacing.” (US Election Fascinates Chinese; some envy voters, 11/5/12, Didi Tang, Associated Press).  We have the right to vote for the leader of our country, and if we don’t like the outcome we have another opportunity to make a change in four years.

Before I close, I just want to mention that one of the greatest ways to change your perspective is to take action.  This time of year presents many opportunities to reach out to others who are less fortunate by giving of your time, talent or resources.  Please consider doing what you can to ease the suffering of our fellow human beings.  For example, to donate to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, via the Red Cross, click here.

In a little over two weeks’ time we will be gathering around the Thanksgiving table and reflecting on that for which we are thankful.   My hope is that you won’t wait until that time to think about all of the blessings in your life.  Change your perspective and remember, “someone else is happy with less than what you have.” (author unknown).