Lessons from PB&J

Amanda - Syracuse, New York
Entered on September 9, 2009
Themes: change, gratitude
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I believe in being thankful.

When I look at my life and all the reasons I think I have to complain about how difficult it is, I remember that I am a citizen of the wealthiest nation in the world. Only 8% of people on earth own a car. My 1995 Dodge Stratus lacks air conditioning, doesn’t shift gears quite right in cold weather, and has a passenger’s side window that only goes down if you pound the panel on the side of the door, but 92% of the world sees me in that car and says that I am rich.

Somewhere around a quarter of the world lives on less than one dollar a day. I buy songs on iTunes for 99 cents and think nothing of it.

When I find myself falling into the complaining game, where I look at what’s wrong in my life and compare it to others’ lives, I think about the wonderful people I met one summer when I traveled to Zambia, a country in South-Central Africa, to do missions work at a school for children orphaned by AIDS.

I remember a worn and wrinkled grandmother offering a tour of her home – a clay shack she reconstructed every summer after the rainy season. I remember her introducing us to her eight grandchildren, for whom she was the sole caregiver. I remember the tears in her eyes as she pointed to a tiny granddaughter, scraping cornmeal out of a small tin can with a stick, saying she wasn’t sure how much longer she would be able to care for the children.

Just a couple hours earlier, I had been complaining about having to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch for the fifth day in a row.

I can’t describe how much it hurt to see this tiny girl eating soggy oats out of an old can, knowing that her grandmother would have given anything to feed her grandchildren just half of my PB&J.

It’s easy to forget to be thankful.

I don’t dress nearly as fashionably as the girl in my English class. My house is a 15 minute walk from campus. The button to turn down the volume on my car’s stereo doesn’t work anymore. I have to pay rent next week.

But when those thoughts strike, I think about the tears rolling down the wrinkled cheeks of that grandmother. How can I not be thankful for what I have? I have clothes on my back, a bed to crawl into at night, peanut butter and jelly in my pantry, and most importantly, family and friends who would do anything for me, as I would do anything for them.

I believe in being thankful.