Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pride, Gratitude, and Christopher Reeve

Yesterday my husband, Bob, read a quote by Christopher Reeves. It had to do with not being proud of your appearance, because the looks you were born with, good or not, are not an accomplishment. It got me thinking about lots of other opportunities for pride that are more likely to be opportunities for gratitude.

It's obvious, but I didn't choose my 5'10" height. Or my bone structure. Or, for that matter, being born to white parents in a free country. I didn't choose any of those things. In fact, I've joked all my life that I would have picked different "parts" from my ancestors. Dad, I love you, but your feet! Sheesh! But I am truly grateful to have been born with strong bones and musculature, good eyesight and hearing (I know, Bob might argue with the hearing part), a beating heart and happy lungs. Health. I am very grateful for it. And, I guess the saying "take pride in your appearance" really means take care of the body you have been given. Be a good steward of it. That makes more sense. More healthy sense. Not pride, but gratitude.  I am grateful for my parents, who raised me to believe that life is a beautiful adventure. I am proud of my parents' accomplishments, too. They worked hard and gave my brother and I an idyllic  childhood.

Proud to be an American? Well, I am proud of America when we as a nation act like civilized people who care about something other than our own pocketbook and power (synonymous, I think). I can't really be proud of something that isn't an accomplishment. I can be grateful to be an American.

America is a great place to live. Is it morally superior to other countries? Sometimes. Not always. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been born here. But that was not my doing. Only my good fortune. I even have trouble saying I was blessed to be born here, as if people born in other places are not blessed. As if God favors me, favors America. That is a kind of weird theology, or maybe theosophy, I can't buy. The America I would be most proud of would be one that valued people as children of God no matter who their parents were. The country that takes pride in justice. The place where freedom means no one is oppressed. That would be an accomplishment. One that has not been made by any country throughout history. We could be the first. That would make me very proud of America, indeed.

I love my children with the heart-exploding love that makes me remember their childhoods with teary eyes. I love them as adults. I am truly proud of their accomplishments. Their choices to be good people are my greatest source of pride. But I did not choose who they would be. Just as they didn't choose to be born to me and Bob. I am grateful, grateful, grateful to be their mother. I can't really say I'm proud to be their mother, though I am proud of them.

Some of the mistakes I've made in life have turned out to be my greatest teacher. I truly am not proud of those choices. I try to be grateful for the lessons learned. I even have trouble with that sometimes. When I get to thinking I can control anything beyond my own behavior, things go awry. Sometimes pride itself is a stumbling block to living the good life, the one I believe God longs for me to live. That is why I am blogging away about the notion. Typing away to sound out the intricate differences between pride and gratitude in my own mind. Thanks for the lesson, Christopher Reeve. I admire you greatly. I'm very proud of you for the way you conducted your life.

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