It struck me on the way home today, that for so many people life is hard.
I have mentioned before that I ride the bus to and from work. Most people that ride the bus in this city are not even remotely middle class. But today, because I sat toward the back of the bus rather than the front, I noticed this even more.
Many of my fellow travelers have no other means of transportation and use multiple transfers to get from point “a” to point “b.” In other words, a trip to the doctor that would take you or I 15 minutes, could take one of these people 30-40 minutes.
Many work menial jobs. There were four people who had on uniforms from fast food places. There was a pregnant mom trying to manage three children, a stroller, and two bags. Her tone was a little harsh when she directed her little boy to sit down. But I noticed how tired she looked and wondered to myself how far they had already traveled before this ride.
There were little kids, maybe 10 years old, unaccompanied by a parent making their way home from school. Out in the suburbs where I live, any number of parents pick up their children from the bus stop. These little folks get off and head home alone, almost certainly to an empty house. And the house is likely not empty because the parent does not want to be there for their child, but because the parent cannot be there because he or she is at work.
And then I remembered my time in Jakarta last January. And the conditions for some of the people I saw there make the conditions of those on the bus look good.
With all of this in front of me, I thought of the “Occupy Wall Street” people. Certainly Wall Street has its problems, moral and otherwise. But I have a hunch that none of the Occupy people were wondering where their next meal would be coming from nor where they would sleep. My take on that movement was that it was not about having basic needs met, but about not having wants met. And the distance between needs and wants is huge.
Bringing this a little closer to home, I realize that most of the difficulties I have faced in life, are difficulties that impacted my perceived happiness – issues of “want” not “need.” Sure, there are any number of things I wish could be different. And I can think of sets of circumstances where I would be happier (although one never really knows if that would be the case). But the sorts of ongoing, daily difficulties that my fellow travelers face have rarely, if ever crossed my radar screen.
But the truth I was reminded of on the bus today is that for the vast majority of people in the world, life is hard. The corresponding truth is that I must be grateful to God for the gifts he has entrusted to me, and that love for those who have been given less is the practical outworking of that gratitude.