Ungrateful Students and a Thankful Syrian

Some Thanksgiving thoughts-

Campus protests are erupting across the country. In response to perceived racial injustices students have disrupted football games, libraries, lectures, and every conceivable aspect of academic life. Administrators have struggled with how to respond, with most deciding to meet as many of the demands as possible and in so doing validating the claims of the aggrieved.

The outside world, of which most of us are a part, is less supportive. Columns and blog posts mock the students, calling them spoiled, entitled and ignorant. These criticisms overlook what I think is at the heart of their dissatisfaction and at the heart of many of the problems we face today.

They aren’t thankful.

We live in the richest nation the world has ever seen, with blessings and benefits that previous generations would have viewed as impossible fantasies. Most young people hold in their hands smart phones that have hundreds of times more computing power than that which powered the space shuttles, that can take and store photographs without film, and from which they can teleconference with anyone around the world. Today’s students have boundless educational opportunities, most of them subsidized by fellow citizens. They live in dorms that are luxurious, with movie theaters, restaurants and work out centers.

In spite of all of the blessings, they are dissatisfied and angry. There is no sense of gratitude, no consideration of their privilege. People their age in all corners of the globe battle poverty, disease and oppression on a daily basis and can only dream of what these young Americans possess but American students are mindless of the plight of others. Lacking any sense of gratitude, they protest over silly slights.

We as a society would do well to remind ourselves and our families of how blessed we are. A person living at the “poverty line” in the United States, $11,770 a year for an individual, is in the top 15% of income earners worldwide. The poorest Americans are wealthy compared to the rest of the world!

Perhaps it is time to change our focus. How different would our lives and conversations be if we stopped focusing on the things that we do not have and instead focused on what we do have? We who have been surrounded by plenty all of our lives can easily lose sight of the blessings we have received.

I spoke yesterday with a man from Syria. He left there many years ago. Today he works behind the parts counter at a Kia dealership. It is not a high paying job by American standards, but he spoke of the incredible blessing of living in the best nation in the world. He considered himself to be rich. He was grateful and content and it showed in his face.

I want to be more like him.

Happy Thanksgiving.

-          Bart