My Things Aren’t Mine
A few weeks back, a woman who for several reasons could not get food stamps to feed her children, went into the welfare office and shot herself along with her children. She had often been seen begging outside local fast food establishments for the items they were throwing away that day. Her family lived in complete squalor. Her neighbors would often try to help, but this community is extremely poor and no one had any real help to offer.
During the standoff, before killing herself and her children, she was said to have been ranting about how the system had failed her, had let her down. A few people I know pointed to this as her sense of entitlement, that she thought she deserved assistance, deserved to have someone else (presumably someone who did deserve the things they had) take care of her.
And maybe these people I know are right. Perhaps this woman did feel like she somehow deserved to be helped, that she should matter enough, that her children should matter enough to someone that they might have something to eat, or some running water, or a better, safer place to live. Maybe she did decide that if the government wasn’t going to help her feed her family then she would take that family away.
Yet, how many of us feel the same way? Not so much about the government providing for us, or reaching a unstable point of wanting to kill ourselves or our families, but that because of our efforts, or our choices, or who we are that we are entitled to things.
It is a nice sentiment: Hard work equals reward. But that is all it is…a sentiment. Nothing about the work itself entitles any of us to a reward. Often we get something for our efforts, but isn’t that more chance and luck than any entitled consequence? If hard work were all it took then I doubt there would be starving people, poor people, at least not in the numbers we currently have.
It is easy to see the failures of others, to look at them as lazy, somehow deserving what happens to them and being annoyed or angry at their wishing or expecting the rest of “us” to take care of them. The truth is, just like you, I am entitled to nothing. Not one single day of existence is owed to me. I am not entitled to food, or shelter, clothing or security. Yet, everyday I am shocked by how much I feel I am owed the things I want or should get to keep the life I live. Evidence abounds that most everyone else feels the same way.
As an American, I have been taught since my childhood that God has granted me certain rights, the right to life, the right to be free and the right to (and this gets to be all sorts of things, depending on who you talk to) happiness. I think this might be one of the most dangerous lies ever told. Sure, these are great ideas and being free and being happy are wonderful aspirations, but there is nothing naturally inherent about them. Children are stillborn every day and people are oppressed and live in poverty all over the world. Even without governments or tyrants to enslave, the world, nature does not promise us any of these things.
I am grateful for what I have and try to appreciate it, understanding it could all be gone in an instant. We are lucky to have anything. And that is all it is, luck. No God given blessing for faith, not a capitalistic reward for hard work and tenacity, just plain dumb luck.