There is a possibility I may have learned about the mentality of entitlement without Pine Cove, but it would have more than likely taken me a long time to process it in a healthy way. I have been fairly privileged my entire life. We did have to count pennies at times. We went shopping every once in a while for clothing and toys. There were many times my mom would have to say no when I asked for something. Yet…although we watched the bills, we never went a whole winter without heating or a summer with AC unless mom wanted to keep the expenses down. We went on a few family vacations, not nearly as many as a lot of the families I know…but we did have the ability to go those few times. We have always had just enough. I did not get everything that I wanted, but I had plenty. We are blessed.
My first dose of entitlement had to do with my own selfishness. I cringe at the memory, but here we go. I was a bossy and strong minded girl (still am in many ways), but the black tendrils of entitlement had encaged my heart with the notion that I deserved a car no matter the way I treated my parents. I was not a bad child, but I was a terrible early teen. Everyone should just take a moment to pat my parents on the back for making it through that war zone. My mom asked me something along the lines of “Do you think you should get a car?” or she may have even said “do you think you deserve one?” All I know is in my heart there was nothing in life that I had done wrong, so I deserved a vehicle as a thanks for being a normal child who did not do drugs, steal, treat people terribly. (My definition of treating people terribly was skewed. Instead of looking at good examples to follow, I was looking at the bad examples and comparing myself.)
I did receive a vehicle, but I think this was more so my parents did not have to taxi me around and less about me needing one. If my mom were anything like me, there is no way I would have gotten a vehicle after stating the condition of my blackened and selfish heart. My mother is much more forgiving than I am.
[Side note: The car I got was my grandmother’s 1987 Grand Marquis. I am so grateful for that car because it has given me a good perspective on needs and how to parent. No 16 year old should get a brand new vehicle that is worth more than 10K, and a 10K car is pushing the limits. My dad found me a truck about 7 months later. I had to earn the right to drive that one though by learning how to drive stick. Let me tell you, that was another battle to overcome. There were many tears. Like Rocky, I overcame the struggle though and through the training of my patient family members, I became quite skilled at manual driving.]
My second or third dose of recognizing entitlement was when I got back from Zimbabwe. I had spent a couple weeks in Harare seeing how a culture could function differently and with so little. It was sad but beautiful. These people’s lives were not run by electricity or celebrities. I would even say it was not run by their possessions, but their possessions were all they had to live on, like a house or a bed or supplies for merchandise to sell. I cannot romanticize the Zimbabweans; they are still human and capable of being just as dark as Americans. You cannot stop at a stop sign without looking at your surroundings even though you are supposedly protected in a vehicle. If you are not aware of your surroundings, you may find yourself robbed of possessions, the car, and possibly your life.
When I returned to Kansas after spending a couple weeks in Zim, I discovered I had culture shock, not while I was in the foreign country but when I returned to what I had called home for 18 years. I went to Wal Mart shortly after returning. I remember looking at all the overstocked shelves and closing my eyes to see a vision of the empty shelves in the Zimbabwean markets. When I opened my eyes again, I had a hard time being sympathetic for my fellow Americans, especially when I overheard a child whining about not getting to keep a toy she had picked out and deceptively placed in the shopping cart hoping her mother would not notice. Oh the ruckus she made when her mother refused to buy the toy. Thankfully my mother was usually pretty clear about what we were in the store to get. I asked for things anyway, but I do not remember throwing a major fit in a public place because I could not get the toy I wanted. My usual route of persuasion was debating about why I needed the toy, hence my parents’ desire for me to become a lawyer. (Correct me if I am wrong, Mutti. I’m in a humble mood this year.)
I was absolutely disgusted with our culture’s obsession with what we deserve. We deserve the brand new car. We deserve the three story house. We have earned our right to party and “drop it like it’s hot.” Absolutely not, my friends. I consider myself to be a good citizen, but do I deserve whatever I want? No. I can be a terrible human being in my heart and my mind. I can be judgmental and rude and unforgiving and selective about who I will talk to. Not only do I have the ability to, I have been these things!
Thankfully God did not give me the opportunity to move away from America just then because I would probably still have an aversion to our culture today if I had taken off to travel Africa. Like I said earlier, Pine Cove has helped me see entitlement and change my attitude in a healthy way, not in a spiteful way where all I can do is tear another culture or person down in order to feel like I got my point across.
God has used Pine Cove to keep me in America and help heal my poor opinion on the American culture. We are different than Zimbabweans, but that does not mean we do not need ministry. Our country is blessed with constantly stocked shelves, but our sense of community is broken. Pine Cove is religious but not exclusive to particular doctrines because so many doctrines focus on things that are not important. Do you love Jesus? Have you accepted Him as the Way to God? Those two things are important, so stop being so haughty if someone disagrees with how many times you should take communion or who in the congregation should be allowed to. Christians are not supposed to have an air of entitlement, but many do. I hate it when I recognize it in myself. We are supposed to “submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.” (Eph 5:21).We are supposed to be the servants.
Currently I am reading through the book Esther in the Old Testament. God is hardly mentioned in the book of Esther, but you can see Him at work in all the little details. King Xerxes is an entitled ruler, his culture is sexist, and he does not understand how to be a servant leader. As a leader, you need to be able to lead with authority, but you most definitely need to be a servant. This is what I look for when I look at voting in the country. There are many things I disagree with in the two main runners for the 2012 candidates. This will be a difficult choice for me because of this. My parents will shudder at the fact that I am even considering Obama, but I would rather look at him with open eyes than with a blind rage just because he has more socialistic tendencies. I think our constitution is fantastic, and I would like to keep it the way it is for the most part. I see Obama as a good friend, but not necessarily the one you want as a parent. On the other hand, I see Mitt Romney as the parent who cannot relate to the kid because he hasn’t been one for a good while. Can he make good decisions? Yes. Is he what we need right now? Maybe. Is he the good provider of the family but an absentee father? Both candidates have made decisions and changed their minds because they have grown in their beliefs. Which is better? Could I maybe do a write in?
I may be stretching to make the above paragraph relevant to the rest of this blog, but I think it does fit in. We should be looking to serve each other regardless of our social status. If a gay man or woman walks up to me and asks me for help, I am not going to turn them away because their sexual orientation is against my beliefs. They are human. If a homeless person needs money, but you don’t trust them, take them out to eat…pay for groceries, get their contact information so you can keep in contact. Treat them like the individual they are and not a statistic. People are constantly screwing up by forgetting whom Jesus reached out to. He reached out to the people the Pharisees turned their backs on; he broke bread with them and preached about God to them. He loved them, and they could see that because He did not ignore who society deemed to be the least saveable. Is this blog about converting people? No. It is, however, about how Jesus is a great example of how to not be entitled. He is God’s Son and did not consider himself to be greater than the people He lived amongst. He even listened to the convicted felon on the cross beside Him.
The church has failed here. We do charity outreaches, but the congregation does not reach outside of our privileged bubble enough. It is not a lifestyle but an event in our life to love on those with less. If we all took care of our community, kind of like in Acts 2, we would not need our government to do all the work for us. We all, including Republicans who want a smaller government, rely too heavily on our government to take care of those in need of healthcare, the unemployed, and those without the means to live. It isn’t all just about education for the underprivileged either. The educated need to be re-educated on what it means to be a good member in society and how to serve, not just look out for number one. I will step off my political soap box for the moment.
There are some things you can earn in life: like a degree or a job over another person due to conduct or experience. Do I deserve a roof over my head, a car, or an education over the orphan down the street or in Africa? Do I deserve healthcare over my neighbor? Some say if I am a contributing member to society, then yes. I like to believe I am a good citizen, but I have really contributed to society? I donate clothes periodically, and I pray for those less fortunate than I. Like I said, I cringe when I think of all the ways entitlement has influenced me over the years.