COLUMN: Gratitude the parent of all virtues
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 14:03
With a 16 trillion dollar national debt, a Congress that has a record low of 10 percent of Americans’ approval, corrupt leaders, money-grabbers and the government encroaching more and more on the rights of the people, it is sometimes difficult to see the bright future that lies ahead for many of us. We are very lucky and sometimes we forget that.
Because to try and instigate any meaningful conversation often requires discussing societal ills and specific problems, critics of my previous columns have written to me and about me to explain there is much good in the world. Well, I’d like to completely and blatantly agree with them. There is much good in the world, and for this I am grateful. Sometimes it is difficult to convey the good because to tackle any issue one must often attack it head on, but allow me to take the time to announce the world has not completely collapsed and seems to continue turning day in and day out.
And how grateful we should all be. Did you know there are still hundreds of millions of people without sanitary drinking water? More than three thousand children die per day of diarrheal diseases.
Billions go to bed hungry each night and several hundreds of millions have no electricity. Billions of people in the world live under dictators and communist regimes. Terrorism seems to be the norm in many parts of the world.
And yet here we are in happy ol’ Utah going to a wonderful school where we often play on our iPhones and laptops or even read this newspaper during class and disregard an education that billions of people would give everything they own for. I just took a vacation to San Diego. Yes, a vacation — another wonderful luxury billions of people do not have. We were driving down the road and saw a man in a sleeping bag lying in the sidewalk. He was homeless. This is nothing new: There are many homeless people in this world, but do we ever marvel at the fact that we are not, or that we live in a country where the problem is so minimal? We really are a rich nation. We talk of cruises, sports games, mansions, traveling, fancy cars and airplanes. We are free to build wealth and free to spend to our hearts content on things that make us happy.
Now, I should be clear that this isn’t an attempt to make you feel guilty that you have so much and so many people have so little. It’s great that we’ve been given so much. We are very lucky and very blessed. There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy or being prosperous. I’m not telling you that you should go spend all of your money to adopt a Kenyan or anything like that. I’m merely pointing out that the clouds have not all gone black: There is so much to be grateful for, and we should recognize it.
We live in America. We live in the first free nation in modern times. We live in the place which made leaps and bounds economically and socially and has inspired a world with technology that has never before existed. We live in a place where almost everyone has a home and a full belly, and we live in a place where people are typically good, upright and honest. We live in a wonderful country and should be grateful for it.
Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” So yes, we have to pay attention to the world around us. We have to have difficult conversations about even harder issues. We shouldn’t bury our heads or turn a blind eye to problems that affect our lives or our futures, but beyond all of that we should notice the good every single day. There is much of it. It surrounds us at every turn. I watch people on this campus do kind things for each other every single day. I’m often surprised by people I wouldn’t expect. One person in particular I disagree with on just about every single political issue that I can imagine. We have often butted heads in classes, and then one day I ran into him at a bus station where he was looking after a mentally handicapped kid. Interesting that at the time, I was doing the same thing. I still disagree with him on just about every single political issue, but I like to think we’re both decent people.
That’s the point I’m trying to make. There are good people everywhere. We live in a fantastic world and we go to school at a superb university. I am not going to stop trying to discuss things that really matter simply because they sound negative and neither should you, but I do think it’s important to take some time out now and again to point out just how blessed we really are.
– Richard Winters is a senior majoring in Law and Constitution Studies and Communication Studies. Send comments to email@example.com