Thursday, November 5, 2015

Blessed Are Those with Imperfect Lives

Aren't people with great lives some of the most nauseating individuals you'd ever want to meet? People with great lives seem to be the weaker ones of us -- the ones who ask others to pray for their neighbor who just won't quit shooting the grass clippings to their side of the common drive; this is the most trying thing they've ever experienced. People with great lives seem to be the most judgmental -- "Did you see her daughter moved back in, with her three children; not one of them looks alike. Wonder if they're on welfare." People with great lives tend to smile funny -- that smile that says, "I'm so much more together than you, but I don't want to appear superior so I try to smile warmly but it doesn't go well with my face and just winds up looking creepy." (or something like that) People with great lives pay for their children's college, lease their automobiles (they call them "automobiles"), invite their attorneys to christenings and Thanksgiving dinner (and they call them "attorneys"), own teenie-tiny dogs (I have a theory about the size of your dog being inversely proportionate to the "greatness" of your life), shop at Whole Foods weekly, and vacation yearly (and I mean vacation vacation -- not just use the FREE TRIP offer from the time share company and coupons from birthday offers to six different email addresses). People with great lives have been married to the same person -- for years -- have never been on public assistance, cheated on their spouse, considered cheating on their spouse, or had a mentally ill parent. I am being facetious, of course, but everybody seems to be looking for the "perfect life" -- or, at least, a great one.

I don't have a "great" life by any stretch of the imagination. My life might be joyous and exhilarating, filled with love and adventure, but it is an ugly stretch of highway that gets us from one milestone to the next. We can't pay our bills; we are poor enough to be poor, but wealthy enough to be completely on our own. We struggle with relationships and dysfunctional mentalities; we make mistakes and, on occasion, completely, foolishly disregard the rules. We get sucker-punched with tragedy and bad news, and sometimes we step into the ring and ask for it. We couldn't care less about discussing the neighbors' drama -- we have enough of our own. Our adult children have more tattoos than we do. We have exes, and skeletons, and processed foods in our refrigerator; we go to high-end grocery stores just to eat free samples for lunch. We sell our vacation time at work and dip into the Christmas fund to make the next child support payment. We have frequent flier miles at the lab and more than one doctor who addresses me as "the problem child."

So, how does all this happen, this disparity between lives? Are some people just so naturally favored while others get the short end of the stick? Well, it's funny, because when I was in the process of a divorce ten years ago, I had nothing. Just a part-time job, no support coming in, legal fees going out, a mortgage, two children to feed -- it was rough. I knew how far you could stretch a loaf of Velveeta (the Aldi brand, not even the name-brand stuff) and a pack of hot dogs. But the folks at work were clueless. I mean about my situation, not the hot dogs. I became known as "the Princess," and apparently, was thought to be living this charmed life. When I began helping with our church's food ministry years later, I knew exactly what some of these moms were experiencing, but they looked at me with my designer clothes (Goodwill, and from years ago) and thought I couldn't possibly relate. Sure, disparity exists, but a lot of the time it exists in the purest sense, right between our ears.

I have this friend who appears to have never smoked, cussed, drank (drank? drunk? I'm terrible with that), or done an illegal substance in her life. She's not worldly or wealthy by any means, but she definitely appears to have it all together. Her clothing is Talbots, and her IQ is far above average. But this lady has dra-ma! And she's not creating it! She has been through more stuff than any one individual should have to endure in a lifetime, taking a lickin' and still tickin'. And it just might be the craziness, ugliness and chaos of an imperfect life that causes her to help others with the same kind of life. She helps unwed mothers, feeds folks at a mission, works with the addicted, and teaches English as a second language. She would do without to provide for someone else. She will wade through the seediest lives of the seediest individuals simply to bless them. This is not some ego trip; she's not out to single-handedly save the world. This wonderful lady sincerely wants to help others because she herself has been so blessed. 

Blessed?! "Didn't you just say she doesn't have a perfect life?" She doesn't. But the same way our perceptions cause us to judge others for what they have or have not endured, what they can or cannot overcome, our point of view reveals to us the benefits of having gone through some stuff. She knows she would not be the strong, compassionate person she is today, would not be able to help those she helps, would not appreciate the things she has and the life she lives were it not for the blessings of an imperfect life.

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