There is nothing like the poignant heartfelt perspective of a teenager to remind us of what is important. To remind us what the Christmas spirit is all about.
Jack York, proud father of 16 year old Perrin York, is the founder of It’s Never 2 Late ® Jack sent me this essay a few evenings ago. In the strictest sense it is not a Christmas story except that it captures the importance of the Christmas Spirit with that unique passionate clarity that is reserved for young people.
“Once the life begins to seem secure, one feels the freedom to complain“ – Ann Patchett, Bel Canto
We, humans, always want more. We always want something better, newer, faster, cooler, but as soon as we get what we want, it’s not good enough anymore. We can’t seem to stop for just one second to admire the incredible things we have because we are always focused on achieving something better. We complain about our wonderful life while we ignore those with legitimate problems. Society has pressured me to need perfection in everything I own, say, and do, and I find myself complaining about anything less. It’s a terrible cycle that I constantly find myself falling into.
I upgraded to an iPhone 5 and I was ecstatic to own such a new and brilliant device. But as soon as the iPhone 5S was available, my phone was suddenly old news. It was unimportant, insignificant, and boring. It had practically all the same capabilities as the new phone, but lacked the small ‘S’ attached to the new one. That little S holds so much power over me because only a phone with an S on it was truly the best, and I, like society, want nothing less than the best.
Average is not good enough. Why is it not satisfactory to hold a device that can navigate you to any location in the world, or that contains all published knowledge in one small safari app? Is that not good enough? What is so much better about a lousy ‘S’? In this situation, I struggle to acknowledge my blessings because the yearning for something better overshadows the brilliance that my phone already has. And here lies the problem with society as a whole. We constantly complain about these insignificant problems, and we ignore the reality of how lucky we are. Sometimes, the best way to put our blessings in perspective and understand the true irrelevance of our problems is to compare our lives to someone else’s misfortune.
A woman from the Democratic Republic of the Congo named Sandra came into our French class last week and told us about girls in Congo who desire but can’t afford an education. As I was half-listening and half-complaining about having to walk to lunch, I started to realize that my 5-minute walk to the dining hall was not nearly as troublesome as the 2-hour walk to school for these girls. Yet here I am, complaining about my blessings that these girls could never dream of. We are forced to drag ourselves to school each morning in our $50,000 BMW’s. We are forced to settle for the lousy iPhone 5-not-5S(We may as well just call it that because that’s all society will ever see it as). We are forced to receive an outstanding education at one of the greatest and most expensive high schools in the state. And they are, wondering if they will get to eat dinner that night.
It makes you think a little.
Sandra talked to us about the values of the Congo and the importance of family and respect. She didn’t once say that the girls complain about their long walks to school, or their lack of dinner, or even their inability to afford an education. The impression that I get is that these girls are grateful for what they have, and it’s simply left at that. They have no complaints, no selfishness, but only gratefulness, and unfortunately, our world can’t even comprehend this way of selfless thinking. The cost for one year of school in the Congo is $75. With my tuition for one year at my school, I could fund a year of school for 307 girls. It is such a profound and horrifying difference in cultures where we complain about having an iPhone 5-not-5S yet they don’t even complain about being unable to attend school.
What a messed up world. . . .
– Perrin York
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From LinkedIn Groups
I must say this holiday season has been one of difficulty for us for many personal reasons, however, I found a Christmas miracle of my own the other day when my Jeep Grand Cherokee lost it’s entire front wheel while I was driving and I was uninjured! That’s it…..I went home feeling like a Christmas Angel had saved me from harm and sat with both my daughters, 25 and 28 looking at the Christmas Tree lit in the darkness, the crackling fire in the fireplace, and my husband next to them. To be honest at that moment I felt Christmas and the true meaning and I was blessed. I had my family, more than most in belongings, and the troubles that seemed to plague me fell away and I was truly at peace…..I will remember that peace throughout the year and remind myself of that miracle. Great story you shared Steve, thank you.
By Susan G Tenney
I certainly echo the sentiments in Perrin York’s excellent essay and in Susan Tenney’s response. I realize that we live in a consumer society, fuelled by an expectation of continual change and constantly growth, but I often find myself wondering when enough is enough. Do our possessions bring us contentment and happiness, or just leave us wanting for more? Especially at this time year when so many of us anticipate adding to our treasure trove, I think it would be appropriate to give thanks for the many intangible gift we already have – family, friends, a warm home, safety and security, and prospects for continued prosperity, even if we don’t get that new gadget we so much cherish.
Way to go Perrin. Thanks Steve for sharing this. Not quite a Christmas story perhaps but a wonderful lead into Christmas. Tasmanian poet Janet Upcher is quoted by the Religion Editor Barney Zwartz of the Age newspaper (Australia) whe he writes “rather than lifting people beyond the mundane, Christmas now means the loss of transcendence” and “if you look around people are bowed down with shopping and consuming and the world is too much with us” (Upcher). Zwartz says “She (Upcher) sees technology as impoverishing because it removes mystery”. One can certainly debate that last claim but Perrin’s piece shows that even the young are seeking transcendence and that spirituality that Christmas really is about. Blessed Christmas to all.
Is there anything better in life than learning from your kids??? Perrin is a remarkable daughter, its always bittersweet to see your kids grow up but when they deliver this type of wisdom you get excited about the roads they will choose in life. Thanks Steve for publishing