Recovered from his recent back surgery, my dad is back in action in this week’s episode, and while he still can’t bend or twist, we discuss international flooring.
Dad often talks about how important it is to look at life from a different perspective than what you naturally do in order to understand the people around us. If we perpetually view life through our own small lens, we will be constantly frustrated and frustrating to others.
Now, when we were younger, Mom and Dad struggled financially and Dad thought that we were poor. That is, until he met truly poor people. Then his perspective, vocabulary, and even methods of measuring wealth all changed.
But it was about 16 years ago that Dad had traveled to Honduras after it was devastated by Hurricane Mitch. He went with a group from our church with the mission to help rebuild homes and other buildings. It was while he was working on a roof one day that he looked down to see a woman nearby diligently sweeping her floor.
Now, when we sweep our floors, it’s often to clean away the dirt that has gathered, but this woman’s floor was made of dirt. How do you remove dirt from dirt? Why would anyone sweep up a dirt floor?
Then it dawned on my dad – that was the best darn dirt floor that she had ever had, and she was not only pleased with her work, but content with her newly cleaned home.
This drove home a point that my dad has talked about over and over again: how do you measure your wealth, and how does that affect your perspective on life?
Now, it’s not up to us to challenge other people on what their definition of “poor” is, but it would do us all some good to go outside of our neighborhoods – even to a third-world country – and see what true poverty is. When we come face-to-face with real poverty, it should cause us to change our perspective and realize just how rich almost all of us in America really are.
However, if you were to meet someone who recently (or even not-so recently) lost their job, or the paychecks aren’t coming in as frequently as they used to, or they are about to get foreclosed on… it doesn’t do anyone any good to tell them, “Hey, I saw a woman with a dirt floor. You’re rich!”
Instead, strive to develop a relationship with the person who may need a perspective shift. When they recognize you as an authoritative voice, or even just a friendly voice with their best interest at heart – then they might listen to what you have to say in the matter.
Without that type of relationship with them, it doesn’t matter how true your words may be, there’s no way they will take what you have to say to heart.
But when it comes to ourselves, if we look solely at our negative situations, we will end up concentrating on our negative situations (this is different than “if you think happy thoughts, you’ll be happy”). Pain is real. And each of us has a different pain threshold. But, when we help one another to look beyond our pain – beyond our negative situations – and adopt a broader worldview, then our pain will diminish simply by comparison to our being aware of other people’s predicaments.
We need to focus our efforts on changing the ways we look at things rather than changing the way things are. You see, sometimes we simply will not be able to affect all of the people of the world. Not everyone will have more than a dirt floor. But as we change our collective perspectives, then we can also change how we work together on bettering the world around us.
All this to say, it is our job – as we have been blessed to live in a wealthy country – to take care of the less fortunate people of the world. The question comes down to: How do we do that? History proves that if we keep throwing money at them, nothing will actually change. That’s the wrong answer. Good money simply keeps getting thrown down an abyss. We need to find a way to encourage their lives and help them move themselves from one situation to a better one. And since we’re here in the U.S. (and more specifically, my dad is in North San Diego County), then it’s easiest for us to start at home, locally.
But, how are we, practically speaking, supposed to saddle up alongside someone who is truly hurting and help them through this season? According to a close friend of my family, the key is just being there. You can offer them some scriptures or inspirations – written down and maybe even in an envelope – but let them know that you know they may not be ready to hear them today because the pain is so deep. But when they are ready, on their own timing, they will find encouragement in your efforts. Meanwhile, maintain a compassionate ear and be a friend during their painful season. Then, when they are beginning to heal, you will have earned the credibility that my dad spoke of along with the ability to speak healing truth into their lives.
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