Monday, September 28, 2009

Human Priorities

How badly ordered are our priorities? We treat some things as life-and-death issues when they're merely silly things, and then we dismiss or ignore those problems that might actually mean life or death for someone else.

People get upset over a handful of cents. People call, furious that the franchise that operates within our store is doing a promotion that other stores aren't doing. People become angry that my hands are tied when they don't have a receipt.

Are shoes that important to someone that you would be furious you couldn't get multiple pairs at a lower price? If the price you claim the glass dish was is twenty cents less than what rang up, is it really worth fighting over?

But I guess that's our condition. Our priorities are always in the wrong order. We can easily get upset over what personally affects us. We can easily get upset over what we can see or feel.

But we can't get upset so easily when it doesn't personally affect us. The pain and suffering of LGBT people in parts of Africa is far, far removed from American life. The struggles of people wanting to be free are too far away for us to care; we got our independence, so why worry about yours? And what about the people throughout the world who are struggling to find meaning and purpose in their lives after seeing how empty the promises of the consumerist economy are?

And we are able to ignore intangible problems. If we can't see it or feel it, it's not much a problem, it seems. In America, everything is a commodity, and religion is now the same way. It has to be made acceptable, innocuous and non-threatening to the consumer. It's now only a "personal" matter, not of much interest to others except those who would sell us a new and improved spirituality. And health care- if I don't have to see the suffering of friends and neighbors struggling to take care of their bodies, then I don't have to worry about it.

I can't say I blame people much for this. As imaginative as we can be, our imagination can only stretch so far. We have to work hard at understanding what's happening beyond our own eyes and ears, and we have to work even harder to care in a way beyond muttering, "What a shame."

Praying for people far away and for the people we don't see or hear is crucial for bringing the problems of the world into our own. I may not be able to do much for them, but at least through prayer we unite ourselves to those we pray for.

But the mulitiple pairs of shoes? I don't think your life will improve that much if you get those fake fur boots with the high heels.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Thanks be to God that I finally got a job. It's part time, it's retail, and it's enjoyable. Seriously! My co-workers are cool, my supervisors are nice, and (so far) customers have been generally positive.

It's hard, though, to rejoice when what you're doing is completely unrelated to what you studied. And, worse yet, we've been conditioned to see certain occupations as "beneath me". Yet all labor honestly done has inherent dignity.

I admit it- I go to fast food joints every once in a while even though I try to watch my diet. Do I enjoy it? Of course! I need someone there to cook my food, don't I? And I need people to clean up stores, to take my order at a restaurant, to cashier for me at all the different stores I visit.

All of those occupations are important to our society! As Douglas Adams pointed out in his satirical "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series, the society that fired all their telephone sanitizers was quickly wiped out by a disease spread by dirty telephones. Not every job is glamorous, and not every job will impress someone on a first date.

What's important is not so much the status of a job but rather whether the laborer is fulfilled by his or her work. If they feel they've done a job well and go home satisfied (even if they're exhausted!), then it's good.

So thanks be to God for employment with a good company. Thanks for the hard work of so many people and for the fair compensation of labor. Let's continue to pray for the underemployed and the unemployed, and also for those whose work goes unnoticed.