Several months ago in our church kitchen, I had yet another wise discussion with Oriel. Throughout this conversation Oriel was discussing two very different women she had encountered during her very busy week.
The first person Oriel visited that week was a woman battling cancer. According to Oriel this woman had been admitted to hospital and her prognosis was not very promising. Oriel had decided to visit her in the hopes of providing comfort and companionship during a time that could only be described as lonely and distressing.
After a short time with the woman, Oriel was struck by how thankful and appreciative this sick woman was towards those she encountered. She was amazed by this woman full of gratefulness. This woman felt so fortunate, despite her ailing body and diminishing life span.
Oriel was flabbergasted. This was not the attitude she had expected. She had anticipated a woman full of anger and disillusionment. She expected a woman utterly consumed with self-pity, and rightly so.
Instead Oriel found a woman completely full of gratitude and selflessness. This woman did not want to dwell on her ill-health, but rather she wanted to focus on the things that she did have; love and support from those around her. She was truly grateful for these people in her life.
The second woman Oriel encountered that week was a woman blessed with so much. This woman came from a large loving family and had many acquaintances. She had good-health and was blessed with many things in her life.
Yet despite all these things, this woman could not see how fortunate she was. Instead this woman proceeded to tell Oriel how unfair life had been to her. She felt sorry for herself. So she complained to Oriel, she whinged to her, and then, after she could lament no more, she ran the gamut of clichÃ©s; you know the ones 'it's not fair' and 'what about me'.
Oriel was stunned for the second time that week. She could not believe that within the space of a few days she had experienced such contrasting viewpoints on life.
The first woman Oriel met that week had every reason to be bitter. She was dying. And yet despite this she would not dwell in self-pity or whinging.
In contrast the second woman had so much to be thankful for. She had good-health, economic stability and a big loving family. According to the world's standards, this woman had very little to complain about, she basically had all the trappings of a successful life. And yet all she could do was complain about other people and her personal misfortune.
What a difference these women's attitudes were.
It almost sounds like the perfect setting for one of Jesus' parables, doesn't it. We encounter scenarios everyday that relate to biblical teachings. So this narrative isn't anything new; there have always been people who are 'victims' in life and those who always seem to find joy and gratitude despite their circumstances.
We need only look at the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:10 – 14.
In these verses Paul says:
How grateful I am, and how I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but for a while you didn't have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. But even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.
Despite his many, many trials and tribulations Paul was always thankful and grateful. Paul knew that despite how much or how little he had, he always had God's love and strength. A lesson we (me included) should all adhere to.
Alison Barkley lives in Newcastle and is a post graduate student at Macleay College in Sydney in book editing and publishing.