Have you ever felt so convicted, just leveled by something you read or something you heard? Honestly, when was the last time something shocked you as a matter of your core convictions or worldview?
I had that experience 2 weekends ago Saturday night at church. The pastor said something that I’ll never forget and it awoke an understanding in me that, up to this point in my life, I had been almost completely numb to.
You see the preacher (my boss) was giving a message within the series “The Best Of Jesus,” a red letter series, a selection of Jesus’ most famous, yet oft hard to wrap your head around, one-liners.
He was talking about Jesus’ words from Acts 20:35 when, actually, it’s Paul who sites Jesus’ words: “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
I’ll cut to the chase: it was a message on giving and generosity and it was an incredibly stellar one at that. I challenge you to listen/watch the sermon located here.
But that’s not the main point of this post. It’s about one particular thing Tim shared about his story growing up in a single-income house of 8 in Ohio.
He said one line. Just one short statement that I’m hoping and believing will change my life, how I view the world, how I make decisions from this point forward and here’s what he said:
When I was growing up there were two different seasons of time-for 6 weeks-that all we ate was popcorn (and water).
At first it was just knee jerk amazement not having known this element of my boss’s upbringing. But it struck me. And it set off a mental ticking time bomb that I was forced to deal with for the whole weekend.
Here’s what I concluded. People, mostly (but not always) of another time and generation, that have shared experiences like this-experiences of scarcity, like real and sincere austerity-are forever formed and marked by them in a way that others of us will forever misunderstand and thus not be able to account for in our daily lives.
In other words, those of us, like myself, who have never known real want in our lives are at a literal disadvantage that informs how we think, how we decide and ultimately how we live.
Here’s the principle:
For those of us who did naturally inherit a reality of austerity or scarcity, we must do something else to foster the spirit of scarcity, what one might call “a scarcity of heart.”
I can think of several people who fit this mold besides the preacher/boss of mine. There was my dad, who similarly grew up in the Midwest and once had to sleep in the back of the car with his sister.
I can think of my wife’s grandpa who used to bring his newborn baby to the bar where he worked (before becoming a restaurant entrepreneur-and working the business hard to this very day at the age of 80).
I can think of one of my best friend’s wife (not from the generations of the men above). Many times her family growing up knew what it was like to live on the street, shelters, scraping by.
And these scenarios are just ones who have personally touched my life. This is to say nothing of a more international perspective where 2 or 3 billion people worldwide live on less than 2$ a day. So yes, there’s that too.
Though I haven’t lived any of these scenarios myself I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume they are profoundly formative-marking these people for lifetimes to come.
Here is the flip side (of growing up very privileged and never knowing a moment of real need) of things: you have an intrinsic belief that, ‘everything will be okay,’… ‘that we’ll always find a way,’… ‘that it could never really get ‘that bad’…
In short: you have a core belief that includes a general sense of security and plenty.
So here’s my argument: having that outlook-based off of a privileged upbringing-is a limiting factor… a “privilege handicap.”
And NOT because it’s hope-filled, positive or optimistic.
But because of the hunger and edge and grit and seriousness that comes with the reality of scarcity.
Hopefully at this point you should be feeling at least somewhat conflicted.
Rest easy, that’s kind of the point.
But there’s also a challenge: if you suffer from the same (or similar) “privilege handicap” here are some habits we can all build into our lives to at least foster a scarcity of heart:
ONE. Surround yourself as constantly as you can with people who have different stories, upbringings and experiences than you.
This principle is so stinking HUGE! I think this could literally shape and benefit whole SOCIETIES-if more people would only live this out.
It might just spare us from the echo chamber of myopic reinforcing belief! And try this: when you sit down with someone just ask them this question: what was the scariest year of your life?
TWO. Count your blessings.
Because if we do that, though we’ll never completely know or understand the scarcity that others might have lived through or are currently living in now, by contrast, we’ll remain aware of all that we do have. And awareness through fostering gratitude is never bad.
People who start their day this way, people who carve out initial, meditated time of thanks and gratitude ARE THE BEST PEOPLE AROUND. Right? We know it’s true because we know and experience these types of people. We too can be “those types of people.”
THREE. (This should probably be step 1) but the first thing is always: acknowledgment
Each one of us must come to the end of the line of our own privilege and how that impacts SOOOOO many unnoticed, discounted, underrated daily values for us! That is literally the definition of privilege-the things allowed to go by unseen (and hence taken for granted).
FOUR. Develop a scarcity of heart…
Find other ways to stay hungry, hustling and full of grit. So what, this was not your story and upbringing, find another way to be serious about the challenges and opportunities that you’re being afforded each and every day.
Taking this for granted is a dishonor to our friends and family who have lived these realities we could never know or fully understand.
But don’t do it just for them. Do it for yourself, your partner, your kids, your legacy. Trust me, the legacy of a person who remained humble and hungry will always inspire, instruct and invest more in the lives of others than the legacy of a person who just idly floats by.
This may be very personal and debatable for some readers so I urge you to empty your cup, humble yourself and consider the benefits of committing yourself to becoming a lifelong learner on this issue today.