When I was 18, my dad bought me the cutest little silver sports car. It was a gift of many proportions, being functional--pretty much necessary, as a college student in Indiana; but also fun and a great source of pleasure. It was the perfect gift.
Now, I know nothing about cars. I have a less-than-basic understanding of how they work. I only know the care they require because I've been told. I can't say my college and graduate school years were my richest, and so I tried to gracefully take on the financial responsibilities of owning a car, even when it was hard or not convenient. I also realized that the car would change and would require care; it wouldn't always last, but with a little effort, I could stretch its life, and therefore my enjoyment of it.
So I took pride in it. I would spring for the middle-grade gas, or put ethanol gas in it when it needed a good cleaning. I made sure to get the oil changed, right on time, every time, even though driving on to those garage things made me nervous and I never understood what the mechanics are saying to me. Once a week, I would visit one of those do-it-yourself car washes, scrub my car clean and vacuum out the insides. I kept every document tucked neatly in an envelope in my glove compartment and the console was always organized. I didn't put trash in the pocket in the door.
This is what we call stewardship. It's an expression of gratitude, taking care of what we have been given. It's being responsible and thankful. I tried to be those things, even when it was tricky or I didn't understand. You don't have to be all-knowing, or even agree with everything, to have a thankful heart.
Over the years, I have felt accountable for my behavior on this Earth, which I consider to also be a gift. It is functional--you know, necessary for life, as human beings. And I also derive great pleasure from my time spent here. Splendor abounds. I take pride in it, and because I believe God gave me life to live here, I want how I spend my time here to reflect thankfulness.
I considered this as I dumped vegetable scraps into my trash last night. When we had a house with a garden, I never did that because we used peels to feed the chickens, and we composted the rest. But I don't have a garden here, and composting for the city is expensive and almost impossible right now, so I just don't do it.
The thing is, there is a lot that I don't understand about the environment and our planet. I've only scratched the surface learning of how interconnected is our health and the quality of the air and the ground and the water. I know plenty of people who don't agree with certain measures taken to protect our resources, probably know even more people who aren't willing to choose the responsible route when it is financially inconvenient.
I've been thinking a lot about right and wrong lately. I don't think I believe in right and wrong in the way most people perceive those words. I think there is a lot our human minds will never fathom, and that when it comes to ethical codes and the wars we wage against people who don't agree with us, we're missing the big picture almost every time.
But I realized that one way to grasp a greater vision, to think around a situation instead of staring straight at it but not seeing, is to instead think in terms of stewardship. It doesn't have to be about environmental practices. Maybe it's about relationships. Maybe you're not taking pride in the people in your lives and fostering healthy, loving friendship. Maybe it's about parenthood, and instead of seeing yourself as a steward of your children, you seek ways to control or not to control them. Maybe it's your work, and the situation feels so terrible, you take no personal pride in what you do.
Still, how would your choices change if to live was an expression of gratitude? What if in spite of what you know or what your opinion is or what those around you are doing, you exercised that heart muscle into thankfulness?
That's all I'm trying to do, all I'm trying to be: Thankful.