Hashtag Blessed is sometimes used to humblebrag as in:
- Had a great time at our condo in Hawaii #Blessed
- Can’t believe I’ve been promoted to Senior Vice President! #Blessed
Blessings are undeserved experiences of grace and the truth is that many of us secretly believe that – actually – we deserve our “blessings.” In this TED Talk by Mark Sutcliffe, he suggests that:
- Our culture’s “I worked hard for all this” narrative is often self-deception.
- On the day we are born, either we won the ovarian lottery or we didn’t.
- The luckier we are at birth, the luckier we continue to be in life.
- Life success is not a zero sum game. We don’t lose if more people have a change to win in life.
If we see our successes as a result of being #Blessed then we might make the false assumption that those who are not #Blessed are lazy and irresponsible.
It’s true that:
- Most of us have worked hard for what we have. (Also I know many people who work twice as hard and will never climb out of poverty because some of us started on third base and some of us started in the pit behind the dugout.)
- Some people have great opportunities they don’t take and therefore life is harder.
- God indeed blesses us. Every day. Beyond measure. Even if we struggle in life.
But here’s the reality: The federal minimum wage is $7.25. This is okay if you are sixteen years old working at Burger King while living with your parents who pay for your housing, food, clothing, transportation and phone.
If you are a single adult trying to support yourself, $7.25 for 40 hours a week is $13,638.38 annually after taxes. There is most likely no health insurance and no paid vacations or paid sick days with that job.
Pitiful Fact – The following states pay the federal minimum wage/they do not have a higher state minimum wage: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
And too many of us believe that the working poor are merely not #Blessed. Actually, they simply didn’t win the genetic lottery at birth. They are not #Lucky.
I have a friend who was sold for drugs by her mother from the age of five through age 8 which is when she was put in foster care. Upon aging out of foster care, she lived with a boyfriend and she got pregnant.
So far – if you are adding up the traumas: 1) she was assaulted as a child, 2)raised without loving parents until age 8 and 3) pregnant before she was ready. She had no education higher than high school. She had no health insurance. She had no birth control. (For the love of God please support Planned Parenthood – the only option my friend has had for health care her entire life.)
By age 30, she had two more children but she was a hard worker. She found employment in an older woman’s home taking care of that woman, cooking, and cleaning. She and her children could live rent-free in that woman’s safe home in a good school district. And she received a small salary.
My friend worked seven days a week/365 days a year for that woman. She was always on call and still she was grateful for the work.
The older woman died in June 2019. The older woman’s adult children understandably wanted the house. My friend took her children to live with their father in another state. (His job is selling drugs.) She was living in a friend’s abandoned car, working at minimum wage she found within walking distance of the abandoned care, but for only four hours a day – the only job she could find. Several congregations have been helping her find employment and housing. She is afraid to go to homeless shelters.
She is afraid for her children, especially her daughter who is – almost certainly – being sold for drugs by her father. She is afraid of getting sick with no insurance. Sometimes she thinks she’s having a heart attack.
This friend of mine is grateful for the help that churches have given her. She is grateful for the short-term jobs she has found. But she has no money and no chance of getting her children back without a safe place to live. And – because she hasn’t had great choices, she’s been selling herself for money to a group of sex traffickers in the area (who just got arrested actually.) But she is still homeless, still terrified for her children.
She wants to do the right thing, but she is desperate. She works much harder than I have ever worked. But it will take a miracle for her to feel safe and secure with her children.
She feels blessed in some ways, but she has never felt lucky.
I believe that God uses everything – including abject poverty, sexual assault, physical hunger, monumental stress, and homelessness – but mostly God uses those of us who have been #lucky to help those who have not been.
A word to all Christians who might be reading this: if we – in our enormous fortune – are not helping at least one person who is poor every day, we are failing as followers of Jesus. I’m speaking to myself here as well.
Please never again put a #Blessed comment on Instagram unless you are also blessing someone else in a comparable way that day. Yes we are blessed. Everyone is blessed in some huge or infinitesimal way.
But only some of us are lucky enough to have hit the ovarian lottery.
Amen to this.
My God. Thank you, Jan, for your ministry, and for your essential honesty.