My family and I just returned from a get-a-way to Colorado. We love to visit a small mountain town called Creede. Home of the Rio Grande National Forest, it’s known for it’s fishing, hiking, camping and all around mountainous beauty.
We stayed in a small cabin in town, and while visiting a local restaurant employed by foreign exchange students, we met a young man from Ukraine. I’ve always been fascinated to discover the stories of people from other places. What I soon discovered from his story gave me a whole new perspective on the blessing I have as an American citizen.
As he looked at our young children he told us how blessed they were to get to travel away from home. He said growing up they were never allowed to go anywhere except school. The government of Ukraine made it nearly impossible to travel outside your town with fees and expenses too outrageous to make it worth it. He said he always overhears the older couples who come to the restaurant, talk about where to go next… thinking to himself “You have no idea what a blessing it is to have options…”
He was in the states for the summer on a temporary work visa. He wasn’t complaining but told us he works 6-7 days a week with little time off, serving American’s who have no idea the blessings right in front of them. But he was so grateful to get the chance to be in America, even if it was for only three months at a time and only if he was working.
He told us about meeting a group of a young American’s at one of the restaurants he was working. “They were complaining about how awful America is…” he said with a thick Ukrainian accent. “About the politics and the violence… I had to tell them they do not know what they are taking for granted. At least America has politics, and gives it’s citizens a choice… in Ukraine, we do not have choice. In Ukraine we are taxed for everything… even the water and the ice in the restaurants is something you pay for…”
He was gracious and kind, like he just wanted us to know how blessed we were to be American’s.
He left to go check on our food, and as I popped the top off my kid’s 7-UP, with free ice, and sipped on my free water, I reveled in how much I actually do complain.
When we don’t have a great perspective on how blessed we really are, it can be easy to fall into the trap of ungratefulness, complaining, and focusing on what we do not have.
One thing I always do at the start of each day, or anytime I’m starting to feel unhappy or lose my peace is list the things I’m thankful for… the things many of us take for granted everyday:
Food to eat, a car to drive, money in the bank, a healthy family, a house with air conditioning and heating, great friends, a wonderful church… I think I’ll be adding freedom, and free ice water to the list too.
Gratitude activates peace.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.”