Opinion: Mind your manners…

Faith in Waipa

By Murray Smith, Senior Leader, Bridges Church

Some time ago our family hosted some overseas exchange students on a home-stay basis.

They were pleasant enough kids, but our lasting impression of this bunch was their sense of entitlement. We went out of our way to show courtesy and to indulge their wishes and preferences – all in the name of local Kiwi hospitality. This was particularly around the food area. We’re a family who try to host in ways that please guests. We also understand how cultural differences influence ways that gratitude is expressed (or not!).

What took us aback continually was how the majority among this group responded to questions if they’d like to eat certain foods or if they’d like to go somewhere.

To get a response of “Sure,” or at best, “Sure, that’d be good,” and at worst “I don’t eat that”, was entirely unexpected.

Trivial, I know, but saying ‘please’ and ‘thankyou’ goes a long way. “Big doors swing on little hinges,” the saying goes and parents who neglect diligently encouraging their kids to be thankful and to express gratitude do them a major dis-service.

The thing is, a grateful person will be a more whole, more aware and happier human being possessing a thankful disposition. Gratitude leans towards being positive in outlook whereas a spirit of complaint and ingratitude drifts incessantly to seeing fault and deficit.

I like lyrics to an old poem that say, “two men looked through prison bars: one saw mud, the other saw stars.”
It’s all about perspective. We are going to see the ‘cup’ in life as either half full – or half empty. And thankfulness determines how we perceive our situation, effecting so much about our wellbeing. Even if life’s circumstances are trying, finding things that we can be thankful for, will lift our joy… a characteristic that never co-exists alongside grumbling and discontent.

We live in a very entitled generation. Travelling in third world settings where happiness and contentment cannot be found through abundance of food, clothing and possessions, deeply challenges a re-calibration of your values in life…and what constitutes success too. It is all relative. Just owning a car places you in the top 5% of world wealth holders according to a world-wide development organisation that mobilises people against poverty.

But are we thankful for our privilege?

Ingratitude is ugly.

At home we pause to thank God for the food we eat at mealtimes. One of our kids was visiting a family where that wasn’t part of their practice. She meekly asked her hosts if they were going to thank God for a meal to which the response was “Why thank God, Mum made it!”

Such oblivion is prevalent pointing to a deeper thoughtless lack of appreciation of where good things come from. People quickly attribute a tragedy to ‘an act of God’- but aren’t so quick offering thanks to Him for some blessing enjoyed.

The One supplying life, breath and everything that sustains us deserves thanks.

“In Him we live and move and have our being.”

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