Monday, November 2, 2015

Americans Need to Realize: The American Dream isn't Dreamy

It seems like every year, I spend more and more on Christmas presents. In fact, I can already feel my index finger itching to click over to Amazon to search around for the best ______ whatever (knock on wood). I know that in spending upwards of an average $700 per person, and over 400 billion as a country, our spending is exorbitant this time of year.  But I feel like Americans' objective hypocrisy could probably be boiled down to one regular thing we do every year....

Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes.

There, I said it.

This is not to say anything against the wonderful ministry of Samaritan's Purse, nor those who generously participate in this act of mercy (and those who participate generously.) However, I've definitely participated in this program in the past, and I remember one year, I actually bought a brand new pair of shoes, and I then filled the box with cheap crap, for someone in a third world country. This was just so that I could:

a) show him how rich I am, AKA, how much richer I am than him,

b) show him that of all the things I could do for him, a box full of cheap crap was what I decided on.

I could have bought him a new pair of shoes. I could have bought him a goat or heck, a new farm. But what did I decide to do? Send him some erasers and ugly pens from the dollar store. I went out of my way to show them that while my Christmas will be full to the brim with stuffed stockings, large containers of 3 types of popcorn, huge meals of turkey and dressing and more desserts than I can eat, and an abundance of presents under the tree, his Christmas can be "taken care of" with a shoebox of crap. There! That ought to do it!  Now he will know that he means nothing more than worthless crap to me, and I feel self-righteously good about myself.

Americans: you need to know something. You are the problem. You are spoiled.  Your American Dream is just not dreamy. And we have the poor here, too. Not just in Africa. We have them right outside our door.

You've got to read the book Grandfather's Journey. In it, a Japanese man comes to America, where he tries to raise his daughter. The book is full of gorgeous watercolors, one of the daughter with a new doll on Christmas, and she looks simply put, unhappy. He follows his dream, but quickly realizes its results feel so very empty. He decides to return to Japan, where keeping birds is his passion, and so that he can escape the materialism of the American way of life.

Do you remember the post going around about a year ago, of children playing all around the world? It depicted so clearly that all of the toys, all of the stuff, and all of the jealousy in America isn't making us happy. Simple, free play is shown. It shows children playing with buckets of water. Children riding on animals. Children playing with other children. As friends.;)

Remember the scene from Little Women, when the four sisters wake up on Christmas morning, thinking only of the poor and those fighting on the battlefield,  and they deny themselves all the sweet pleasures of the day, for the sake of something and someone better? As you may remember, they walk to the poor German immigrants, the Hummels, just down the street, just to bring them a very special breakfast, for Christmas. Their love and thoughtfulness ends in sacrifice, as Beth contracts scarlet fever from the baby, and soon passes away.

Mother Teresa diagnosed us a long time ago. She said that of all the countries she had visited, there was more spiritual poverty in the West than anywhere else.

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

― Mother TeresaA Simple Path: Mother Teresa

Well... is it any wonder?

We have spoiled ourselves to death. We have drowned in an entertainment-saturated, materialistic, greedy culture.

The American Dream isn't dreamy, Americans.

We're all fooling ourselves, and we need to stop.

When a poor person dies of hunger it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.
― Mother Teresa 

Wow, that shiny piece of jewelry doesn't look so shiny anymore, does it?;) Lesson learned. When a person is dying of hunger, don't send them a shoebox full of crap.


Before you go....

I just wanted to let you know that my E-book, The Lost Sun: Looking For Light in the Midst of Depression is now available for sale! 
Click here


Leslie said...

This is harsh, but I can't say that I disagree. We were watching a show the other night in which the poor were rioting and taking hostages. One of the hostages was feeling bad about the plight of the poor, and someone said to her, "It's not your fault." She answered, "That's what we always tell ourselves. And nothing ever changes."

Tacy said...
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Tacy said...

My thoughts toward 400 billion are severe, at best .;)

Rachel Meyer said...

All of your thoughts are right except that I wouldn't call materialism the American Dream. I think the American Dream is a society where nobody is second class, where everyone has real opportunity to be financially independent. You could argue about how much we do or don't meet that, but calling $800 in Christmas presents the American Dream doesn't do justice to our founding fathers.

Rachel Meyer said...
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Tacy said...

I see what you are saying here, and I guess I would just respond that we don't necessarily go looking, or even know we are going looking for this... but all of the clothes, dolls, toys, and special gadgets that we buy every year certainly aren't making us happy. The "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," seems undeniably intertwined with our need for "stuff," as evidenced by the statistics!!! Drive into any U.S. town and observe the strip malls. Though we may be blind to it, this is our culture, and it is glaring to the eye that is un-used to it!

Wendy J Williams said...

I agree that our society is caught up in stuff and entertainment. I disagree about the shoeboxes ministry. Washclothes, soap, toothbrushes, bandaids and gospel tracts are NOT crap! A small ball or doll can be meaningful to a child living on the edge of the garbage dump.