These words of wisdom, spoken by Uncle Ben to Peter Parker in Spider-man, has become somewhat of an idiom in Western culture. Paraphrased from a statement of Jesus: “To everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded…1”, it is a notion that has been on my mind of late. What does this actually mean for me? I’m no Barack Obama, Pope Francis or Gina Rinehart; and I’m certainly no Spider-man! I’m just an average Australian, working part-time to make ends meet, rushing children to and from school and sport, maintaining a house that is slowly but surely falling apart over time, organising rare evenings to date my husband, and shopping for bargains at the supermarket.
In our Western culture, I find it very tempting to look at the Jones family and wish I had their house, their yacht, their Jaguar, their holiday house in the Greek Isles. But in fact, the Jones families make up less than 1% of the world’s population. Statistics indicate that if the rest of the world lived like me, the average Aussie, we’d need the regenerative capacity of 3.6 Earths to sustain our demands on nature.2 A startling statistic! We are a resource-rich, over-consuming nation of people of whom I am one! And yet I’m still tempted to look at my wealthy neighbours and wish I had more.
In actual fact, the majority of the world’s population is living in poverty, without a roof over their head or a pair of shoes to wear on their feet.
And here are the inevitable questions I ask myself… Is it my fault that I “have much”? Is it my fault that I have been born in a country with access to education and healthcare? Is it my fault that I have been able to work hard for a fair wage? Is it my fault that I have clean water piped into my 4-bedroom/2-bathroom house? Is it my fault that I can walk down to the local shopping centre and buy fresh fruit and vegetables? Is it my fault that I have a wardrobe full of shoes (though I’m no Imelda Marcos!)?
No, of course it’s not my fault. The fault or wrong is not in the having, but in my attitude and response towards my having. And that is where THAT statement has its impact. Instead of hoarding my resources to myself and jealously comparing myself to those Jones’, my riches should produce an attitude of thankfulness and gratefulness that spills over into generosity towards others. It’s gratefully focusing on my “haves” rather than my “have nots”.
Recently, the staff of MODAL (along with partners and kids) had a chance to exercise thankfulness and generosity. Individually and collectively, the MODAL community has AWESOME jobs, nice homes, at least one car each and a wardrobe full of clothes. And there is nothing wrong with that. But we reminded ourselves on Friday 15 April that somewhere in the world, at the very moment we met together, there were children beginning their day with barely enough to wear, no clean water, and NO SHOES.
Through the wonderful initiative of an organisation called Sole Hope (www.solehope.org), we had a shoe-cutting party! From old jeans and milk cartons we donated, we spent the afternoon cutting out shoe uppers for children in Uganda. The shoes we cut will be sent to Africa and then assembled by impoverished women; primarily widows and ex sex workers. The donation we send with our shoes pays a fair wage for the making of these shoes and places them on the feet of needy children. This was a practical way to be generous with our time and resources and help “spread the hope”.
Sole Hope’s mission is offering HOPE, healthier lives and freedom from foot-related diseases. They aim to create a positive physical and psychological difference in the lives of children in disadvantaged communities in Africa. But this was also a chance for our community in West Perth to be thankful for how much we have been given and to let that gratefulness spill over into generosity towards others. That generosity produced within us a sense that we are capable of making a difference in the world, that we are actively addressing the needs of those around us, and that we are helping to shape our community into a healthier one.
So, I am making it a habit to think about how much I have been given in life, and be thankful for it. Generosity will come as a natural result of the realisation that my life is already full and I can make it fuller by sharing it with others. Will you join me in choosing generosity today?
“You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
— John Bunyan
1 Luke 12: 48b (NIV Bible)
2 The biennial report, produced by WWF in collaboration with Global Footprint Network and the Zoological Society of London.
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