17
Jul
15

I ♥ (fill in the blank)

My wife and I just returned from our annual trip to the Pacific Northwest region to visit with my parents and siblings. It was a great trip with lots of quality family time and wonderful weather. The sad part, of course, was noticing the fact that both my dad and stepmom, at ages 87 and 92 respectively, have both slowed down quite a bit since our last visit.

Besides the huge blessing of seeing family members that I don’t get to see very often, I really treasure the experience of traveling. Occasionally it is refreshing to be in a new place… a place that you do not know like the back of your hand… and to take note of what is new and different in your surroundings.

I don’t know if you do this too, but every time I go someplace new and different, I make mental comparisons. That is to say I compare everything about THIS place (the new location) to THAT place (the place I came from). I compare everything: the weather, the traffic, the scenery, the people, the sights and amenities, the baseball team (of course, the Royals always come out on top on that one), the restaurants, the location, the prices, the houses, etc., etc.

And – sad as I am to admit it – often in this process New Place wins my little comparison contest. Not always, but often. Whether this is because of the novelty factor or the “grass is always greener” factor I am not sure. I don’t think I am fickle and flighty by nature, but somehow the ice cream that comes from that specialty ice cream store in New City just seems a little sweeter and a little creamier than the ice cream in the same store back home.

Of course it really cannot be true that EVERYTHING is better somewhere else. I am sure we can all agree that Kansas City bar-be-que is decidedly better than any place on the planet (sorry Texas and North Carolina. It just is.) Kansas City traffic is LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than Seattle’s every day of the week… including Sunday!

Maybe the real problem comes in engaging in the comparison game in the first place. Can’t each place just be uniquely its own… different in many respects, but not really meant to be just like some other place?

I am old enough to remember the days before the rampant spread of nationwide chain stores put a McDonalds, a Starbucks, a Wal-Mart, a Toys-R-Us, and a CVS Pharmacy on every corner of every town in the country. As a result I have vivid memories of Town “A” being wildly different from Town “B” just about everywhere you went. And I also remember that it was kind of fun to encounter and notice those differences and just appreciate them for what they uniquely offered.

And in the final analysis, I think that is exactly the way God would call us to see ourselves and the other people we share this planet with: as special and unique and capable of offering something that no one else anywhere can offer.

And just as the exercise of comparing cities to each other and coming up with lists of “better” and “worse” is wrong-headed and specious, so also is that exercise when applied to other people. Let’s get a little real here for a moment: as wrong as we know this practice is, we still do it all the time… mostly as a way of feeling better about ourselves. Of course the fact that we DO IT doesn’t make it right. It just makes it easy to continue and justify.

So today I would like to call a fast. I would like to call a 24-hour fast on comparing and judging. And then, after we have successfully negotiated the first 24 hours, maybe we can begin a second… and then a third. But maybe for now, we can just focus on the next hour.

With God’s help, I believe we can.


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