Taking advantage or taken for granted?

What’s your favourite food to eat?
Your ‘go-to’, delectable, edible treat?
Salty or savoury?
Hot, cold or sweet?
Made by your hands?
Sold at shops down the street?
What flavour sensation does your tongue ache to greet?

What’s your favourite thing to do?
When there’s time to do something you really want to?
Exercise? Learning?Β 
Alone or in twos?
A ‘one-off’ or series
Of things just for you?
What wonderful pass-times would you pursue?

And what would you do if life wasn’t that fun
And the things you could do were forever outdone
By those fortunates living in World Number One
Whose blithe daily lives left you jealous and stunned
Of their massive abundance and blessings in tonnes
That they don’t even notice – it leaves you undone
Would you run?

“These are a few of my favourite things”

Here I sit, on my modern laptop, with super-fast broadband connection, ensconced in my comfy sofa in my first-floor flat. I’m wearing comfy pyjamas and enjoyed a warm shower earlier. My friend came for dinner and we ate a delicious meal of homemade chilli and potato wedges, followed by lemon cake, having set up my fish tank with all it’s new equipment and accessories. Later I drove him home in my car, with a tank of petrol I filled up earlier this week from a local garage. If I think around the flat, I can imagine the cupboards in the kitchen, bursting with food. The machines I have to aid daily life; washing machine, fridge-freezer, dishwasher. The drawers and wardrobes in the bedroom, full of clothes and beautiful shoes. The airing cupboard full of fresh laundry.

Do I deserve it?

Think about that one carefully.

Really carefully.

Some of the money that paid for these things was from gifts given to Husby and I by people who love and care for us.

Some of the money that paid for these things was earned through my own hard work.

Some of the money that paid for these things was given by the government, through the welfare system, according to their assessment of Husby’s condition.

All of that money at some point was earned by someone, somewhere, through their efforts, in a country with strict rules about minimum wage and taxes which go to support those who can’t work.

And at whatever point it occurred, that money passed into our hands and was left with Husby and I to decide how we’d spend it.

But do we deserve it?

I am fortunate enough to live in a thriving (no, really) first-world country which holds many opportunities for those wanting to earn a living. There are jobs to be had, a welfare system for those who are unable to work, a bajillion shops to spend money in, more food wasted from their shelves each day than a considerable number of sticks could be shaken at…and I take advantage of all of this, as much as I can, because why not?

My life is easy, full of luxuries, full of Things. Simple things like a vase to hold the flowers I was given. Custom-made bookshelves to hold my hundreds of books. A gorgeous new cabinet (recycled) to hold my fish tank. A balcony overlooking the park.

But I’ve fallen into a trap, and thereby a quandry, of taking these things for granted.

Because I don’t deserve them, friends.

They are there, piling up on my doorstep through a happy accident of birth, because if being born in a first-world country rendered me worthy of them, then surely the inverse is true, and a person born in a poor, third-world country does not deserve any of those things…because I have done nothing in or of my own merit to qualify for them.

And so I know I am living a lie.

Not a small, white lie, but a great, big, dirty, obfuscating one.

I am living, ensconced, with all these Things, this Stuff, this Excess, this Abundance, and I keep gathering more unto myself, as though by feathering my nest I will seem impressive enough to merit my hoard. And I tell myself I own it – it is mine.

But it is not.

Because it’s all down to that accident of where and to whom I was born.

And that renders me unworthy, ungrateful, and selfish. And humbled.

Because that person who was born by the same measure of accident to a Life Without, to Less Than, to looking on as others Have and Have and Have – if we’re looking at merit – deserves these good things every bit as much as I do.

And here I sit, wanting to show you pictures of my new fish tank, taken on my camera, uploaded to my computer, processed as I dunked biscuits in a hot cup of tea in a large mug, suddenly confronted with the enormity of my excesses. Not sharing.

And I’m ashamed of myself.

…but I still want to show you my fish tank, which makes it worse, somehow.
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28 thoughts on “Taking advantage or taken for granted?

  1. I found something else we have in common. I feel the same way. I think about this often. It's a terrible truth. I wish I was smarter, more selfless, with influence so that I could make a difference. Instead I just get paralyzed with guilt, sadness, and inaction. Sometimes I think all we (I) can do is not pass up an opportunity to be kind, generous, or helpful when presented with that chance and to go out and seek those chances sometimes as well.

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  2. You're right. And the man you describe sounds very grounded and very good indeed πŸ™‚

    The thing about character – yes – I couldn't agree more. It's about sharing what we have and looking out for one another πŸ™‚

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  3. My boyfriend's father won a million dollars in 1998 from a scratch off ticket. He continued working until last year. Had a simple but nice mobile home put on his land. Set up CD's of money for all 10 of his grandchildren. Bought a new ford truck that my boyfriend now owns. Of course, a lot of that million went to taxes. Then just simple things. Needless to say, the money has been spent and the younger grandchildren will have a tidy sum but not a lot when they graduate. Do I think he was more deserving than anyone? Not at all. I do think him working his whole life and then that happening was a good thing. I like this post and I'm not even making a point, other than him winning the money didn't change him or his working ethics. I think that's important about all of us. Whatever we have, how big or how small, how is our character as a human.

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  4. This is it, as it's often been noticed that the very poor and the very rich are the most generous givers (proportionately) and those with a middling amount of money will hang onto it for dear life, trying to accumulate more wealth.

    It's so important to keep check of our attitudes in all sorts of ways, and to ensure that we're living in a way we can feel peaceful about (when we actually stop to consider it)

    It's hard though, when you don't know where the money goes and it's such a shame as the lack of transparency from charities is highly offputting. If they're up front about it, I'm sure people would still donate, after all, of *course* there's going to be some kind of admin required to sort stuff out, but just let us know how much of our donation will eventually be used for the people we want to donate to!

    I think if I had millions, I'd be very uncomfortable. I can't remember quite who it is, but there's a famous American pastor who's tried to out-give God – he's made it his mission to always give away more each year than he did the last. He's now making millions a year through his books and lives on about 0.1% of his income, giving the rest away. I forget his name though.

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  5. Hmm interesting topic. I've sometimes had those questions bouncing around my head. I am not really a collector of many things (except video games and gaming cards), but even then the thoughts of not giving get to me. Volunteering was one of the ways I felt I could “give” back to at least my local community. I love helping others, but I always feel being I have so little income I can't give money. Then there is the avoidance of giving to charities being I'm uncertain where exactly the money goes, regardless of claims.

    If I had an abundance of money would I share it? If I had millions would I be a philanthropist? I'd really like to think I would… and then I think about food. I have this odd thing about sharing my food as though I'm starving, which clearly hasn't been the case most my life (and revolves more around the lack of money/income). So I begin to wonder >.< just how hypocritical would I become, being I always get worked up wondering why so many rich people don't do with their money what I think would help benefit other people/countries/world. Anyhow, despite not being a huge collector of things, I fear what path I would take if I did have an extreme abundance of a resource others would best benefit from. I don't think one should feel guilty about their possessions/stuff, but definitely be aware and mindful about their feelings surrounding the acts of giving/sharing of their abundance (and sometimes even their lack of abundance). Jak at The Cryton Chronicles & Dreams in the Shade of Ink

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  6. It's certainly a 'can open, worms everywhere' kind of issue, isn't it. I guess that's why it's easier to push it down, push it to the backs of our minds under mountains of Stuff.

    At one time, I had a radical, wonderful idea that for every purchase I made, I'd like to make an equal donation to a charity involved in care for the poor. If I did this, it would mean such frugal living that I think Husby wouldn't go for it, not to mention giving up luxuries I'm so used to, like my car, but if I ever end up on enough of a salary, it's something I'd still like to try.

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  7. All through history, there have been those that have and those that don't have. What you have is minimal to many, but a luxury to some. We are conditioned by our social standing to reward ourselves by acquiring more and more material possessions, until they become a curse to us. It is so bad, hoarding has now become a social problem for many. Still, we seek more and more, until we get to the point that moving is detoured because of the number of possessions that would have to be packed. The question is, “Even if we sustain guilt for the possessions we own, how do we stop ourselves from purchasing more?” Good post!

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  8. I didn't know I liked Nietsche so much.

    The whole skew is towards the attitude, not the Stuff, forsure.

    Yet in relating to the act of giving, one must give, and one must (hello roger) feel, otherwise one would be as sounding cymbal or clanging gong – a short, noisy squib of little consequence.

    How much to share will be individual and propelled by the strength of conviction that sharing is the Right Thing To Do.

    The comment section has certainly been enlightening.

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  9. ..maybe it'is about not letting (at least a part of us*) become confused by the nature of having things.

    Lets paraphrase Nietsche, and say 'that when we begin to own things, the things begin to own us'.

    I am not disagreeing with your view of the 'fortune of living in a place where more is available to individuals rather than less', but, in my opinion, it is the act of claiming ownership that causes the problems.
    As we say around the Doctrine, it is 'how we relate ourselves to the world around us' that lets us try understand who we are and what the heck our lives entail.

    I think I hear that in what Christine says in her Comment, to give of what we have (to others) is not about the amount we would give, but rather how we relate to the act (of giving).
    To try and put a measure to how much to share is very risky, it is risking confusing things with relationships.**
    Posts like this, while difficult for the Reader to see a struggle, a question needing to be answered, gives back much to (the Readers) particularly in this section…the Comment section.

    thoughtful stuff, yo

    *a part of most of us
    ** using the term relationship in the broadest possible terms…

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  10. Yes, yet it's a (large) line I'm apparently willing to cross all too often.

    I'm not sure where 'taking for granted' sits in there, but I'm sure it's slightly the other side of the fence from gratitude, probably just past the point where humility gives way to forgetfulness.

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  11. XmlSplit-6-Trial We do have so much to be grateful for, and we must be humble in order to feel gratitude. I think there is an incredible difference between having gratitude and feeling like you deserve things.

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  12. A very good favourite, and one I don't feel guilty at all about. People and relationships are very different than Things and Stuff (though I am abundantly blessed in both areas).

    Perhaps not, but it was a point worth making. And there are only so many other ways to say 'uncomfortable'.

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  13. Aha! The very best favorite of all, then!

    You're welcome. After I published the comment, I thought, “I'm guessing no one has ever written the word uncomfortable more times in one paragraph before.” πŸ™‚

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  14. Yesss! Thank you πŸ™‚ Those are good ideas. I shall act on some of them. You're right about the first fruits, too. Look at that, you're good for me too.

    That was me mucking around at Christmas, posing for WonderAunty. The green hat was from a christmas cracker. My favourite in that pic is the time I get to spend with my wonderful family.

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  15. As you well know, I believe that everything we have has been given to us, and the more we are given the bigger responsibility we have. Being uncomfortable about what we have vs. how we're using it to help others is good. We should be uncomfortable. We aren't supposed to give our extras. We are to give our first fruits. Giving should hurt a bit, knowing we can't have something because we have a responsibility to use our gifts for the benefit of others. We shouldn't be guilty for what we still have, but we should feel uncomfortable if we aren't giving enough. The uncomfortableness is our conscience telling us we need to rethink how we're doing things.
    Don't feel guilty about your fish tank. But if it is making you uncomfortable, sit and itemize where your money, time, and talents are going. Then make a plan about how to improve the sharing of your gifts.
    I don't want to make it sound like YOU alone should do this. My husband and I sit down and discuss it every year. Things change, and when they do, so should our giving.
    And on a different note, what in the name of all that is good is that photo of you in the green hat thing? What in that photo is your favorite?? πŸ™‚

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  16. I feel guilty for not sharing πŸ™‚ I need to use that gift with far better stewardship than I have been thus far. This is what has been shown to me tonight.

    But thanks for highlighting some of the ways I'm doing alright on this – I hadn't considered advocating in that kind of light, but I think you're right there.

    I can quite believe your last. But I believe that the 'rest of us' is a minority (even if not by much) adunno. I'd love to be wrong. That or it's the outrageous imbalance of wealth where the top 4% of people own 90% of the wealth (or whatever the actual statistic is).

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  17. I agree with the other comments. Wealth is a gift from God. We should be humble but not guilty for that gift. It's through that gift that we are able to help others and it is our responsibility. Even if you are unable to share specific things you can share in other ways by volunteering or shedding light on the plight of others. And youve done that when you talk about orphans and that toilet thing.

    Believe it or not the very poor end up focusing on survival while the rest of us work on trying to uplift their lives. And thats more important than just dropping money in a bucket and forgetting. (Which i am guilty of i know)

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  18. Yes! This is it. I think I rambled around and obscured my own point a bit. Thanks for tidying it up.

    I'm sure that your efforts will pay dividends, Kerri. I doubt your children will grow up ignorant of the magnitude of their blessings.

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  19. Hehe I know, and I was glad to chat to you.

    I'm glad you get my point though, and it remains in spite of the fact you don't reckon it's all that bad with you. For others it is.

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  20. I think I get what you are trying to say. I do not think we should feel guilty for living in the first world, however we should feel incredibly humbled. Ashamed, maybe, in some ways because with as much as we have we crave more.

    I know as I look around my home I am incredibly grateful. I once was poor and homeless and vowed never to be again. I try, and fail, to instill gratitude in my children.

    This is a great post, one that reminds us on this Independence Day we should be thankful for where we were born. It truly set us on a different path than others in the World

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  21. I love your fish tank..

    Truly I am inspired by what you took from that post.
    In all honesty I was just being snarky because I do have things pretty good despite the Third World Moniker.
    But I get the point you are making with this post…

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  22. I have much and share little. It's not a case of deserving or not, because who can choose where they're born, or the opportunities they enjoy.

    I love my fish tank and it brings me great pleasure, but brings into stark relief the amount I Have. And the little I give.

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  23. No but I can only arrive at the conclusion that I am not to blame for my possessions, but I am accountable for not sharing my abundance.

    Kudos on the origin of all wealth though.

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  24. Trust me, if you flaunting a fish tank makes you selfish or unworthy, god only knows what it makes me for showing all sorts of worldly goods, possessions and things that make me happy daily on my ! Snap A Day photo page. Seriously from all I know of you now you are none of the above and so happy you did share your new fish tank with us. Congrats and if it makes you happy, then I am truly so happy for you, too!! πŸ™‚

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  25. Bottom line: we are all indebted to our Heavenly Father. In the grand scheme of things, material possessions don't matter. Some people have great abundance; others have almost nothing. The challenge for all of us is to be grateful for what we do have and share what we can. Finding joy in a fish tank (for example), is not flaunting your economic situation.

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