Having no “presents” at Christmas – a reality we ignore

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

― Franklin D. Roosevelt

I grew up in an average American family comprised of hard working individuals who provided well for everyone in their household.  While I wouldn’t classify any of them as “rich” financially, their lives were never void of the necessities and pleasures many others often classify as “the American dream”.

When I was a child during this time of year, I always remember flipping through the holiday catalogs – circling dozens of toys with a thick, black marker and folding the pages so my parents wouldn’t forget to mention them to Santa. And come Christmas morning, I was never disappointed.

As my sister and I made our way downstairs, we were always greeted by what seemed like an endless pile of gifts wrapped in holiday paper and bows. Looking back on it now, we were pretty spoiled as kids and probably never fully realized how fortunate we were to always find so many presents under the tree.

I was reminded of this today when I was part of a conversation I didn’t expect. A group of us were discussing what our favorite toys were growing up and one person said, “we were poor – we didn’t have toys growing up.” At first I thought she was kidding, but as the conversation continued we all realized she wasn’t, telling us how many luxuries her childhood was missing.

A feeling of intense guilt overcame me. While you always hear or read stories about children who grew up without toys and books, it’s rare that you have such a person standing right next to you telling you first hand what it was truly like to experience poverty.

This time of year is often a time for personal reflection – an opportunity to look back on the passing year and evaluate another year in the history book of your life. Far too many of us (myself included) often focus on the things we don’t have, instead of the incredible blessings we already do. Why it’s so difficult for humanity to focus on the positives in life is a question no one seems to have an answer to, but it’s a scenario that needs to stop – especially when faced with someone who truly knows what it means to “suffer”.

I’m embarrassed to admit how much I take for granted at any give time. My good fortunes are truly overflowing, and I suspect they are for so many of us – sometimes we just can’t see them. Or maybe we don’t want to because then we’d have nothing left to continuously complain about.

Alphonse Karr once said, “Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.” Let’s all open our eyes and realize that blessings often come quietly and unnoticed. But that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve our thanks.