What’s Missing?

This week I read the book Spiritual Economics by Eric Butterworth.  I’m currently in the middle of the last chapter and have to say it is a very powerful book.  In it, Butterworth debunks a lot of false ideas and (for me) shined a light on how we got to where we are.

I do believe that, in America, we are currently watching the tower crumble.  At some point in history there was a shift from giving to getting, from country and community to me and mine.  My entire life has been one immersed in consumerism and materialism (not by my parents but by media and society in general).  As a kid I remember watching Saturday morning cartoons and getting as excited about the toy and cereal commercials as I did the shows.  I’d beg my mother for those items I saw on TV.  At Christmas time I’d take the Sears catalog and circle everything I wanted from Santa.  I’d say my generation grew up with the “collect them all” mindset.

So now we are all grown up and out in the world searching for MORE MORE MORE.  A few years ago I decided I wanted a bigger house.  It wasn’t a logical desire considering we are a one income family, but I wanted it.  I thought that more space would make me happier, and I knew people who were living in 3000+ square feet houses, so why couldn’t I?  We started going to Open Houses and shopping around.  It was the peak of the market here in Florida.  Most of the 4 bedroom homes were not within our budget.  But still we took the next step and interviewed a couple of real estate agents.  It was only then that reality hit me and I realized I didn’t want to leave the small home that I love.  Since then, I’ve embarked on this spiritual journey and have realized what that “more ” is I was searching for.  I know that I wouldn’t have found it in a bigger house.  And nearly everyday it crosses my mind how grateful I am for my great neighborhood and my home, even it’s smallness.

And that brings me to the answer to the title question.  From what I’ve learned of our history, I’m pretty sure that in the beginning America was a nation founded on gratitude.  People who came here were so happy to be free from the hardships they left behind.  They were thankful for the opportunities to build a life.  The American dream was raised on people everywhere saying thank you, thank you, thank you.  I am so blessed to be here.  It is wonderful that I have this home, freedom, opportunity, and abundance (not in terms of things either).  The “God” that blessed America in the beginning was the Grateful attitude of the people.

But over time, as the nation prospered and life became easier, people stopped saying thank you.  I think that some people began to feel resentment and some gained an attitude of entitlement.  And from that was born the mindset of competition and getting ahead at all costs.  So for a long time now, we’ve been “keeping up with the Jone’s” by spending money we don’t have and running our businesses without ethics.  We do it because we are supposed to have the American dream.  It was promised to us by all those folks that were grateful!

Currently, tons and tons of oil is making it’s way to our shores, men and women are dying in battles in other countries, people everywhere are losing their jobs and homes, animals are being brutally slaughtered, our roads and bridges are weakening, and many of our once thriving communities have turned into ghost towns or war zones.  I can’t help but wonder if we’d be in this position if we hadn’t stopped saying thank you or if we could turn it all around by starting now to live with an attitude of gratitude….

The following video is pretty interesting and speaks to what I talked about when referring to my own childhood.

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4 thoughts on “What’s Missing?

  1. ray y May 7, 2010 / 11:59 am

    Yes, our country does seem to be stuck in a state of selfish expectancy and narcissism. But I see hope. The current recession has created a gratitude in people for what they have. Hopefully, this is a first step in dialing back a need to be satisfied through the accumulation of “things” to a much deeper awareness of the “soul”. I wish us well.

  2. OpinionatedGift May 7, 2010 / 1:12 pm

    I think we have a long way to go yet. We’ve been a consumer centric economy for a long time…Just looking at TV commercials from the 50s makes it how clear we’ve been indoctrinated in the myth of “what we have is who we are”.

    Granted, I want to have a huge DVD/Blu Ray collection. Because I love movies and dream of having my own little movie theater. I’m not immune to it. No one is.

    It isn’t just the things we want to have though. In this country we are so taken with ourselves that we are completely blind that the United States excels at very few actual things except child mortality and moral judgement.

    First we have to recognize we need to improve ourselves, and accept that we don’t have to be “number 1” to be a great nation with great people. It wouldn’t hurt if we decided to fund education again either.

  3. Ray May 7, 2010 / 9:01 pm

    This is such an insightful post Leslee. The ideas of gratitude vs. entitlement have been rattling around in my head for quite a while now and you’ve brought a lot more food for thought into the mix. I especially like your comments about the house hunt. We live in a very tiny, early ’50s story-&-a-half house that often feels like we’re outgrowing it, but really, when I look at it, what we actually need is to weed through the crap and reclaim some of the precious space we already have.

    I know I’m trying to be more grateful for what we have. It sucks that I’ve not received a raise in two years in spite of hard work for a company that is actually doing quite well. But I work with a great bunch of people and I have a solid job where I’m truly contributing to the business. Most weeks I reach the end of work and I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished. I’m grateful for that. Add to that the fact that my wife made so little money last year that she is below the personal allowance for taxing income. That’s tough and somewhat frustrating, but she’s doing well and she’s devoting the time to being more involved with our kids. This makes her happy. I’m grateful for that too.

    Compared to many around us, we don’t have much. Compared to the rest of the world, we’re living a life of opulence. Most importantly though, I feel that we’ve got enough. And for that I’m grateful too.

    • lesleehorner May 8, 2010 / 8:42 am

      Thanks for your comment Ray. Yeah, our house is a very modest 3 bedroom. I think I really got caught up in the bigger house idea after Callee was born and we gave up our “spare room.” But now it doesn’t bother me at all. But of course our girls still go to bed at 7:30 every night. I might be singing another tune when they start staying up later. It does feel really good to have a low mortgage payment and to not have the pressure of going back to work weighing on me.

      I’m going to see if Mark wants to read this Butterworth book and if he doesn’t (or after he finishes it) I’ll send it to you guys. It’s a really great book.

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