Free to be
Every now and then something surprising pops up from an unexpected source, colouring a vision for the future. Gratitude can do that for us.
In this case the surprise came from a black African former refugee who had been granted Australian residency. While his name escapes me at the moment, as does the television show on which he appeared, I am sure we will hear more from him.
Having spent years in a refugee camp, eventually making it to Australia, he had secured a job, accommodation and a new life. His main message to all his fellow travellers and to us was that he was no longer a refugee but a resident contributor to Australia, ever grateful for the chance of a new life this country had bestowed.
The fellow was concerned with questionable claims of racism and victimhood projected in the media by ethnic youth gangs raging across cities and suburbs. With support from his work colleagues and community he was reaching out to those of ethnicity feeling disenfranchised to undertake a similar psychological transformation – from refugee/victim to becoming free and grateful contributors.
The message that they are free – free to take charge of their lives and make of life what they choose – is being voiced by more considered media as we are being besieged by Marxist leaders and ‘useful idiots’ of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and around the world.
Western civilization is under threat from within and without. Yet even in its imperfection, democracy continues to evolve and people can have a say, unlike in Marxist/socialist cultures BLM seeks to advance. Little do they understand the irony that once achieved, the protests and riots they espouse would not be allowed. Revolutionaries tend to consume their own, as the death of 100 million over the last century attests. Perhaps knowledge of history or a visit to Marxist countries or corrupt African dictatorships would clarify whether gratitude rather than contempt should be afforded Australia and the USA for democratic, capitalist advances on the countries of origin (e.g. Africa) or ambition (communist China, Venezuela). An entirely new vision could be formed. We could be spared the wanton destruction.
The personal becomes the political, ultimately influencing a community of interest, so it is wise to reflect on how grateful we are no matter how poor or wealthy our circumstances. Alternatively we can slide into bitterness, victimhood, helplessness or greed, when, with a slight change in attitude to gratitude, like our former refugee, we could become a grateful contributor.
Saying grace before a meal may have become passé as the practice of religion has declined and family meals around a table have been replaced by a bucket of KFC or pizza in front of the TV. Yet a family I know asks all present at a meal to nominate three things for which they are grateful that day. Gratitudes mentioned may be for food, providers of the meal, minor successes, the companionship and consideration of others. Tenor of conversation changes family dynamics for the better.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough. This message is true whether one is poor on benefits, or well off, ever grasping for better home, car, assets, status and money.
Victimhood is not a healthy position for someone receiving the largesse of public housing, free healthcare and services, as well as discounts and other benefits. Gratitude to the taxpayers who fund the benefits would more likely mean the funds would be well spent.
Similarly, a healthier appreciation of the present and vision for the future could be formed with more modest aspirations flowing from a spirit of gratitude for what fills our present, than the relentless pursuit of more to advance assets and status to dull the hollowness within.
The Gift Box
In the dynamics of generosity, awareness of the gift and benefits bestowed is a prerequisite to the ability to express gratitude.
Australia’s provision of generous welfare benefits, though never enough (the poor will be with you always), can tend towards entitlement, diminishing awareness.
As mentioned in my book Becoming, when explaining the dynamics of giving under the heading of The Gift Box (p40),
Moral imperatives imposed only on the “need to give” cause imbalance when there is no concomitant expectation of appropriate response from those who “receive”, in whatever form.
The pool of productive “givers” may shrink in a selfish self-absorbed world should there be little to no evidence of the worth of giving.
Explanation of the 3rd and 4th quadrants of The Gift Box diagram cite the lack of awareness of the value of what has been received and even hostility towards the givers, whether taxpayers or “the rich”. Productive change is impeded all round. Gratitude, the quality of being thankful, the readiness to show appreciation and to return kindness is the missing element.
Measured against my Maturity Model, continuous giving without change, in these circumstances, leads to loss of wholeness and maturity of both parties. The “rights” of the audience to wallow in dysfunction may be respected, along with their “rights” to wear the consequences. The generous can also choose to take their gifts elsewhere to more productive pastures.
That is why it is so refreshing and inspiring to hear the story of the African refugee who has become a grateful contributor to Australia. Our gift of residency to him has been transformed into a spirit of generativity, reaching out to influence others from the refugee community. At the same time, his gratitude has proven a dynamic gift multiplier, as his workmates and the community around him have rallied to his cause. Therein lays disparity between ingratitude and gratitude.
Let us be grateful for what we have today, the blessing of being enough.