Jack York, proud father of 16 year old Perrin York, is the founder of It's Never 2 Late ® Jack sent me this essay a few evenings ago. In the strictest sense it is not a Christmas story except that it captures the importance of the Christmas Spirit with that unique passionate clarity that is reserved for young people.
“Once the life begins to seem secure, one feels the freedom to complain" - Ann Patchett, Bel Canto
We, humans, always want more. We always want something better, newer, faster, cooler, but as soon as we get what we want, it’s not good enough anymore. We can’t seem to stop for just one second to admire the incredible things we have because we are always focused on achieving something better. We complain about our wonderful life while we ignore those with legitimate problems. Society has pressured me to need perfection in everything I own, say, and do, and I find myself complaining about anything less. It’s a terrible cycle that I constantly find myself falling into.
I upgraded to an iPhone 5 and I was ecstatic to own such a new and brilliant device. But as soon as the iPhone 5S was available, my phone was suddenly old news. It was unimportant, insignificant, and boring. It had practically all the same capabilities as the new phone, but lacked the small ‘S’ attached to the new one. That little S holds so much power over me because only a phone with an S on it was truly the best, and I, like society, want nothing less than the best.
Average is not good enough. Why is it not satisfactory to hold a device that can navigate you to any location in the world, or that contains all published knowledge in one small safari app? Is that not good enough? What is so much better about a lousy ‘S’? In this situation, I struggle to acknowledge my blessings because the yearning for something better overshadows the brilliance that my phone already has. And here lies the problem with society as a whole. We constantly complain about these insignificant problems, and we ignore the reality of how lucky we are. Sometimes, the best way to put our blessings in perspective and understand the true irrelevance of our problems is to compare our lives to someone else's misfortune.
A woman from the Democratic Republic of the Congo named Sandra came into our French class last week and told us about girls in Congo who desire but can’t afford an education. As I was half-listening and half-complaining about having to walk to lunch, I started to realize that my 5-minute walk to the dining hall was not nearly as troublesome as the 2-hour walk to school for these girls. Yet here I am, complaining about my blessings that these girls could never dream of. We are forced to drag ourselves to school each morning in our $50,000 BMW’s. We are forced to settle for the lousy iPhone 5-not-5S(We may as well just call it that because that’s all society will ever see it as). We are forced to receive an outstanding education at one of the greatest and most expensive high schools in the state. And they are, wondering if they will get to eat dinner that night.
It makes you think a little.
Sandra talked to us about the values of the Congo and the importance of family and respect. She didn’t once say that the girls complain about their long walks to school, or their lack of dinner, or even their inability to afford an education. The impression that I get is that these girls are grateful for what they have, and it’s simply left at that. They have no complaints, no selfishness, but only gratefulness, and unfortunately, our world can’t even comprehend this way of selfless thinking. The cost for one year of school in the Congo is $75. With my tuition for one year at my school, I could fund a year of school for 307 girls. It is such a profound and horrifying difference in cultures where we complain about having an iPhone 5-not-5S yet they don’t even complain about being unable to attend school.
What a messed up world. . . .
- Perrin York
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