Entitlement, Candy Canes, & Richard Cory

Entitlement is the thistle taking over the garden of the American dream. It simply will not die…and the more space it’s given, the more space it takes.

What nobly began as the “unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” has turned into the unalienable right to not be uncomfortable, impoverished, or relatively poor.

Now, I don’t wish anyone to be uncomfortable. I sincerely don’t. But there’s a tremendous difference between wanting everyone to be comfortable (which compels a person to other-centered action) and wanting people to feel entitled to comfort (which leads to comparison, and inevitably a sense of lack and want.)

It’s neither fun nor cute when our children go from being wide-eyed and overwhelmed with thankfulness when they’re given a candy cane, to sticking their hands out and throwing a fit until we give them one. And it’s even less cute when adults who live in the land of plenty start throwing around ‘tude and crying, “I deserve better! I deserve to have an iPhone, all my health care paid for, and a flat screen in every room of my house…without paying much in taxes.”

Unalienable rights are just that—rights that belong to, and must not be taken away from, every single human being because they were created in the image of God. But the privileges of wealth, comfort, and iPhones are just that…privileges. They’re not owed, deserved, or endowed on us by our Creator. Our founders got it right: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Now, do I wish that everyone could have the opportunity to fall asleep in air conditioning on a pillow top mattress while playing Angry Birds? Sure.

But do I wish that everyone felt that they deserved these things, and if they don’t, for some god-forsaken reason, have them they’re being cheated? Uhhhh… No.

Life is not fair. We’re not going to wake up everyday to someone patting us on the head, placing a candy cane in our hands, and telling us, “…because you deserve it.” I struggle just like everyone to remember this truth, but the sooner we understand that the privileges we have are privileges, and often gifts, the sooner we’ll work to help others. It’s impossible to count your blessings when your abacus is being used to tally up the ways you’re being treated unfairly.

Richard Cory

And besides, if we all got all the candy canes we thought we were owed, would we truly, finally, and once-and-for-all be happy? If we all ended up living Richard Cory’s life, we might all end up sharing Richard Cory’s fate.

 

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,

We people on the pavement looked at him:

He was a gentleman from sole to crown,

Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,

And he was always human when he talked;

But still he fluttered pulses when he said,

“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –

And admirably schooled in every grace:

In fine, we thought that he was everything

To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,

Went home and put a bullet through his head.

- Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson


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