Last night I made another trip to the Grand Illusion (yeah, big surprise, I know), this time to see a couple of documentaries, one about the history of Faubourg Treme, a mostly black neighborhood in New Orleans, the other about a small group of American surfers who travel to post-war Liberia. Both films had me mesmerized. It's an amazing experience to watch a film and actually feel like you have been changed by it, to learn of horrors committed by man and nature, and yet to feel hopeful at the end of it all that things can change for the better, that people can build bridges to gap the hate, the pain, and the misery. Recent reading and slide shows about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, both past and present, have also highlighted the powerful need for forgiveness and love in a world that sometimes feels ruled by revenge and fear.
Lately I feel hyper-aware of the fact that I live in a position of extreme privilege. Not only do I have more than adequate shelter, more than enough to eat, more than enough to wear, and have all my basic needs more than met, but my life is also free from hate, fear, and any truly difficult situations. My husband and family are alive and well, and my relationships with friends and family are a blessing, not a curse. It feels, at times, as though I live in a tight cocoon, wrapped in love, safe from the outside world. Of course, I know this could change in a heartbeat. None of us know what the future may hold. But for now, I'm in awe of this life.
Yet while I'm thankful for all of this, I hesitate to say I've been blessed by God. Perhaps, but what does that imply towards those who are lacking in material and familial comforts? I certainly believe God loves them just as much as me, or any other human, and I have done nothing to earn any special blessings. One thing that stood out while watching the film Sliding Liberia was how many of the Liberians, after having lived through an atrocious civil war, still gave thanks to God for their place on this earth, still looked to God for their hope. It is the only way, perhaps, that one can survive such terror intact. We must look to something beyond ourselves, and give thanks for even the smallest piece of happiness to enter our lives.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, perhaps it's natural to be thinking of our blessings. But I pray that not a single day will go by that I forget to be thankful, or that I forget those in need of love, forgiveness, healing, hope, and a life or their own, free from want and fear. As a world, we still have a long way to go before we get there.