Over the weekend, I watched the film, Jeremiah. The film is about a friend's father who spent eight years as a POW in North Vietnam. When he re-entered the U.S., he saw a country that had changed. He was concerned that the country was being damaged by its own prosperity.
This quote got me thinking about where we are as a society. Prosperity has a positive ring, but perhaps it comes with pitfalls too.
When a society is thriving, for the individuals who aren't, the world can be a lonely place. Our society celebrates wealth, independence and happiness. But this is only a sliver of the human experience. A prosperous society is embarrassed for the man who fails. It is awkward around the woman who is grieving. It withdraws from the person holding out his hand for help.
When society only celebrates prosperity, how will its children learn how to fail? How will they grow empathy? What if we had the audacity to share our failures and struggles? What would that look like? What could it change? In my experience, sharing challenging moments opens the door to deeper, stronger relationships. There are so many experiences we feel we need to lock away in order to protect ourselves and others from our adversity. But once we start sharing, we make room for others to come out of their isolation too.
How does prosperity lead to community degradation? You stop borrowing stuff. When we feel we have to be self-sufficient and have to have everything, we fall into the trappings of consumerism and in turn, lose the joy of sharing with others. In seasons of prosperity, it's easy to buy instead of borrow. But is that good for society?
Yesterday I put a call out on Facebook to borrow a rooftop cargo carrier. Could I have gone and bought one? Sure. But in addition to saving money, I got to reconnect with an old friend who offered to share hers. Who would have thought that a request to borrow something could rekindle a relationship?
Sharing our resources strengthens the ties of community. It builds interdependence and generosity. It helps us see that we don't have to go it alone. The next time you need something you won't use every day, try borrowing instead of buying (and of course, be generous when people ask you for something too).
When we are living in prosperity, it can be easy to become complacent. Life is easy; we can relax. We can forget the feeling of challenging ourselves and slip into an extended period of stagnation. I'm not advocating for living a "hard life," but I am advocating for living a challenging life.
Complacency. Mediocrity. Settling. All of these keep us from living a deliberate, bold, authentic life. Unless we are willing to step out of our comfort zones on a regular basis, we run the risk of discovering that we have not lived. If you are living in prosperity, how can you challenge yourself to enter a new stage of exploration and growth?
In which areas of your life are you experiencing adversity? In which are you prosperous? As you reflect, I wonder if you can celebrate all of it. Can you appreciate the growth and depth your adversity brings? Can you look with wonder at the areas in which you are prosperous and find ways to appreciate and enhance this success?
The human experience is rich with diversity. Open yourself to the wholeness of life, not just the polished perfect pieces. Invite others to join with you on your journey and enjoy a new kind of prosperity.