Recently when I turn on the news, I’m saddened by the headlines I read. Even though I’m Canadian, scary, un-precedented things are happening south of the border and it feels very close to home.
Americans look like Canadians, speak like Canadians, watch the same TV and buy the same stuff as Canadians. We share celebrities and popular travel destinations. We largely share the same ideals, values, and traditions.
But right now America is going through a tough time. The left and right wings are becoming increasingly divided over those same ideals, values, and traditions that they used to agree upon. People are willingly drifting further apart from each other – unable to find a middle ground.
When I read about the number of people angry at their government right now, it’s honestly frightening. I tell myself, “At least it’s not my country. At least it’s not my problem and it’s not like I could have made any difference.”
But it could have been, and one day it might be my problem. After the recent event in Quebec City, clearly Canadians are not immune to polarization and hate, even though we have less legal firearms.
I live in a peaceful, sheltered bubble here in Vancouver. As far as rights go, I have things that many people could not dream of having – even though I hardly express the gratitude that I should. I can speak freely, I can protest freely, I can travel freely, I can love freely. Rather than to express my gratitude for these rights, I complain.
I complain about the slowness of the public health care in Canada, but I don’t stop to be grateful that I never have to worry about not being able to afford a treatment.
I complain about the large amount of taxes I pay, but I don’t stop to be grateful that the taxes are used responsibly and to distribute wealth amongst the population.
I complain about the unaffordability of living in Vancouver, one of the most expensive cities in the world, but I don’t stop to be grateful over the job opportunities and cultural diversity this city has as a result.
I complain about my family and friends, but I don’t stop to be grateful that we are not separated by war, or religion, or bigotry.
In short, I complain about so much so often when really I am so so so fortunate.
Today, the worst things that happened to me were:
1. A driver cut me off at a left hand turn.
2. My teriyaki chicken lunch had too much teriyaki sauce and not enough chicken.
3. The washrooms at my work malfunctioned so I had to use the washrooms upstairs which have far less privacy. There was also a gross, sewage odour in the lobby.
4. I have three new zits on my face, even though I’ve been drinking lots of water and avoiding alcohol.
All of these things made me frustrated, and in the moment, they are really just “the worst”. Just like how late people are “the worst”, and flakes are “the worst”, and friends who don’t text me back are “the worst”, and rude customer service representatives are “the worst” and gaining 10lbs is “the worst” and a new psoriasis spot is “the worst”.
War is the worst. Hate is the worst. Fear is the worst. Despair is the worst. Loss and separation of loved ones is the worst.
For so long I’ve only thought about myself. My own needs and goals, my own sense of vanity and accomplishment. I am compassionate, but I am also prejudiced in many ways. I am prejudiced towards the homeless, the overweight, the drug addicts, and the poor. I think that they are that way because of choice, and not circumstance. I think that, if they wanted to, our society and “my” taxes give them all they need to change their circumstance.
This sense of entitlement is a large part of what drives society apart. Clusters of privileged people who are not grateful for their own privilege and who blame others in order to hoard more of it. More wealth. More power. More attention – not realizing (or maybe completely realizing?) that all of these things are a zero-sum game and what they should be hoarding is compassion and humility.
I have these fleeting moments of “the big picture” but too soon they leave me for other distractions. For the month of February, I will be meditating every day in order to keep my true perspective – that nothing that happens to me is the worst, that I have everything and anything I need. That I am privileged, and lucky, and beyond loved.
That I am grateful for all that I have, and that this gratitude will allow me to pass it on and help those who truly need it.