Monday, October 23, 2006

Keeping up with the Joneses

When I sat at the computer, I put on some quiet background music from a CD I’d been given by my cousin as a Christmas present. Fiddling around with the computer, I discovered that it had a programme I’d never seen before, one that makes all sorts of patterns whilst music is playing. As I sat and watched, I repeatedly stopped what I was doing in order to watch the patterns on the screen. They are so pretty as they move and change colour according to the music. Certainly I could never produce such lovely patterns and I’ve no idea how they are created.

As I sat and simply watched the computer screen, I thought how grateful I am to God that there are so many wonderful talents in the world. I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for all the gifts God has so generously distributed around the world. I don’t feel at all envious of the artist who created the patterns for my computer programme. I’m very glad that he or she has an ability that I don’t because in that way I can enjoy something I could never have produced myself.

It all made me think that jealousy and envy are such foolish emotions. All they do is to create unhappiness. People waste so much time and energy looking at others and comparing the haves and the have-nots. They refuse to enjoy their own special gifts from a loving God.

We see so many examples every day: so many people feel that they have no value unless they are at the top of their profession or their class that they destroy their own lives through envy.

There is an English expression “to keep up with the Joneses”. What it means is that some people are in an unending struggle to maintain similar standards to those of their neighbours, regardless of the cost.

I will never forget an old road sweeper to whom I was talking one day….or, rather, who was talking unendingly to me. At one stage in the conversation, and, really, because I didn’t know what else to say, I made the remark that everybody is trying to keep up with the Joneses. He laughed. “I don’t mind that”, he remarked, “because I am Jones. Everybody must be trying to keep up with me!”

That old man had something in what he was saying. He was a road sweeper. He was paid very little. His home was only a small cottage and yet, there he was, sweeping a road surrounded by forest-covered mountains. At the edge of the road the hedges were full of wild flowers of every colour. He spent the day listening to the music made by the birds. His life was happy and contented. In having nothing, that man was rich. Yet, I’m sure that there would have been very few people who would have changed places with him. They would have envied his happiness, but would not have been prepared to work hard at a humble job. As those who are supposed to be following the poor and humble Christ, let us not waste what time we have in life by envying others.

Lord, you did not make me the most gifted or the most talented person in this world. Instead, you made me who I am. You gave me my own, unique assortment of abilities. You called me to know you, love you and to serve you in this world so that I might be happy with you forever. Keep me, Lord, from jealousy and envy. Help me to rejoice in the gifts you gave to others. Help me to celebrate the gifts you gave to me, especially the gift of your love. Amen

God bless,
Sr. Janet