Today’s reflection is a bit different. (And a little later, I had to leave for Birmingham this morning before I finished it.)  I am still reflecting on the celebration of July 4th and the birth of our country.  It is truly an amazing country of wealth and opportunity.  We who live in it though, most of the time can’t see how blessed we are to live in the USA, as illustrated by these stories of people I have encountered who have hit the lottery.

A while back I went of a mission trip for over three weeks to Southern Darfur in South Sudan, Africa.  I was part of a team that worked with the children and people ravaged by the war and genocide by the Muslim North Sudan.   We dug five water wells to provide drinking water to those affected by the poisoning of their wells by the North.  At the completion of one well a Sudanese woman and her three small children came to the well to drink and bath.  I had brought some bars of soap with me and I gave one to the woman.  She took the bar of soap and cried out in a high shrill cry that is typical of African woman, “Aiy yi yi yi yi yiy yiyi !!!!  She moved her naked children to the well and started pumping water and soaping them down, continually crying out full of joy!  To her she had just hit the lotto!  God knows it must have been years if ever since she had a whole bar of soap and she treated it like gold as she washed herself and her family.

My wife Nancy and I for years were part of a group that walked “The Hill,” a black, poor, high crime, high drug use area ofGuntersville handing out flyers inviting the families to a free community Thanksgiving Day meal hosted by Guntersville FUMC.  Every year, as Nancy would say, my heart would be impacted by a couple families I came in contact with and I would “adopt” them.   I would bring their names to the small group I belonged to and we would by them food, cloths and other items for Christmas.  One Christmas Nancy and I brought these items to a poor family I met.  The mom had a small son around kindergarten age.    I remember the boy going up to the box of food and his eyes got big as he saw a large jar of peanut butter.  He grabbed it and came up to me and Nancy and asked if he could have it, if it was really his?  We said yes.  The boy hugged the jar of peanut butter and danced, shouted!  To him he had hit the lotto!  Then he sat down in his bare living room on the floor, took the lid off the jar, and with the biggest grin and joy started eating the peanut butter out of the jar.  I remember thinking, if I had given my young children a jar of peanut butter for Christmas they would have pouted and looked at me “like really?”  Yet to this poor boy, this jar of peanut butter was an unimaginable gift, he had hit the lottery and treated it like gold.

A month or so ago I served on a Chrysalis team that served and shared the Gospel for 4 days with a group of teenage boys.  One of the boys I got to know asked me to talk.  He told me about some family abuse and neglect he lived in.  Tears came to his eyes as he talked about his grandma that passed away that he loved.  He said she was the one that loved and was always there for him.  He told me how she lived in this huge house.  Like a mansion! It had a big kitchen and lots of rooms.  He and his brothers and sisters would go over there often and she would cook them grilled cheese and help them with their homework.  Then the teenage boy said they would run around and play in her large house and yard.  He showed me a picture of him and his grandma in front of a home.  I asked if that was his grandmother’s house behind him.  He smiled and said loudly, “Yes!  A double-wide trailer with a built on front porch!  When I think of a huge house, a mansion, I must confess a double-wide trailer with a porch does not come to my mind.  But to this boy, because of the poverty he came from, in his mind he hit the lottery when he got a grandma who lived in that double-wide that he could escape into and his memory of it was priceless, like gold to him.

Each of us who were born in the USA have hit the biggest lottery we could ever imagine for which we rarely give thanks; Being born I the USA.  When each of our heads came out of our mother’s womb it could have been anywhere in the world.  It could have been in the bush in a grass hut in Sudan, Africa.  A slum of half a million people in India.  In a tent behind a barbed wire fence in a Syrian refuge camp.  However, by some miraculous chance our heads came out in a hospital bed in the USA.  We did not earn it or deserve it.  We simply hit the lottery.  We won an ultimate prize that billions of people in the world dream and long for, and many desperately try to gain, the prize of US citizenship.  

Because of this all of us need to be more generous and none of us have a right to complain.  I was doing that the other day with my wife as talked to her about our ministry.  We raise are own support ad I was telling her how if we just had one person of all the “rich” in Madison give $50k donation we would be set for a year.  I was complaining about our financial situation.   And then God brought to my mind the stories I shared above and many others, and I shut up.

If I ever feel like complaining, that I am “owed something,” or that “life’s not fair” I need to go pull out my birth certificate.  Then look at the line of “Nation of Birth” that is stamped USA,  and remind myself it means Ultimate Sweepstake Awarded.   And then go be extremely generous.

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