The problem with fear is that it keeps you from appreciating how miraculous life is and how blessed you are. The time spent fearing and distrusting your fellow man is time not spent appreciating how they make your life not only better but possible. When you break things down into “us” and “them” then you fail to feel the gratitude you should for what they do for you.
And make no mistake, gratitude is a wonderful feeling, as well as being an essential element for spiritual health. You cannot feel happy without feeling gratitude, one flows naturally from the other. And if you are incapable of gratitude, you will never know happiness.
Some people are do-it-yourselfers, and I respect and admire that. I wish I was the kind who could build my own garage, re-wire my house, or grow my own food. But even the most self-sufficient of us requires the fruits of other people’s labor. Even those living out in the wilderness have with them possessions that were made by others, perhaps on the other side of the world.
From time to time I might find myself lying in bed and aware of all of the work that has gone into the building of the house my wife and I am fortunate enough to call our own. I assure you that such an awareness brings a greater sense of gratitude than were my home a palace. Not only have people I never met put together the walls from timber and drywall, someone has cut down the trees so that other people at a mill might fashion the wood into proper building material. People have installed plumbing and electrical items whose component parts come from all corners of the world. Somebody mined the copper, somebody shipped it, while others transformed it into the wires that lay hidden within the walls and bring to me the miracle of electricity that is possible because of the people working at the power plant, using coal that was mined in Kentucky coal mines and shipped to us up Lake Michigan. And let us not forget those who repair the wires that bring the electricity to our houses, those who create the appliances it powers, etc.
You see, we are incredibly interdependent. And we are all part of an immensely complex system. Even those who do not seem to contribute are still a part of it. And before we judge those we believe are not contributing sufficiently to the greater good, perhaps we should first ask ourselves if we are adequately rewarding those who do so much for us? Are we providing those who give us life-sustaining food an adequate piece of a pie that is large enough to provide for all? Is their work not as vital as any, and if so should they not be compensated accordingly? Not only those who own the land and the equipment but those who work long hours in the field. There are many working long hours in developing nations to provide the clothes and electronics we feel is our rightful payment for the work we do, and yet those individuals are not driving around in new cars. Often, they do not even have adequate shoes to walk where they need to get.
But instead of appreciation for those who provide so much for us, we often fear and judge those whom we believe may be taking from us. When I think of all those who have worked to build the house I have, the books I read and music I listen to, gratitude takes the place of fear. Fear is a self-indulgence we cannot afford. And by fear I include hatred, for hatred is just a reaction of the fearful to those they fear.
We are all in this together whether we like it or not. We are all going to survive because we have found a way to live together or we will perish because we have not. Demagogues try and turn one against the other, always for the benefit of a few who profit from all. It is our job not only to do the work that brings us our daily bread and the bounty we sometimes fail to appreciate, but to ensure that others who do their job are taken care of as well. That is what gratitude is all about, and it is not a burden but a source of joy. Life would not be so sweet nor rich without it.