On Guilt, and Winning at the Birth Lottery



It’s something that rears its ugly head from time to time. I’d rather not deal with it. It’s an uncomfortable feeling and I wish I could banish it forever.

Three healthy children. I thank God for them. But it also reminds me of others who haven't been so fortunate.

Three healthy children. I thank God for them. But it also reminds me of others who haven’t been so fortunate.

Unjustified guilt serves no purpose but to make us miserable and question our self worth. It’s unproductive and can be debilitating. But guilt can be good. It can show us where we have strayed and encourage empathy. It can move us to action and be the cause of much needed change. That’s the kind of guilt that we all need to experience from time to time.  And I think I’ve got a case of that good kind of guilt going on right now.

It’s hard to explain what I feel guilty for because it’s not something that I have done; it’s more about what I have been dealt: the birth lottery. I was born to a middle class home and I live in one of the most affluent countries in the world. I have no idea what it’s like to be hungry—I mean really hungry. I don’t know what it’s like to live with war or disease being rampant. We have cars, we have a roof over our heads and my children are healthy. Sure, I have “first world problems”, but I have no excuse to feel anything but blessed and grateful.

I was dealt this amazing hand in life and I didn’t do anything to earn it, I was simply born into it.  Everyday there are thousands of mothers that lose their children to disease and famine… there are families torn apart by war. I feel guilty because I could be that woman in Africa that has to keep burying her children, but I’m not. I know it makes no sense to feel guilt over this– it’s not as if I chose where to be born, and yet there is that gnawing feeling…slowly festering away.

I have two options

Either I stuff that guilt away and go on with life as it is, continuing to get caught up in the everyday happenings until one day, long from now, I realize that I’ve done nothing but care for myself and my immediate family, OR I find a way to face it head on and deal with it.  If I want to face it head on, I have to actually do something. And that’s the hard part.

It’s all too easy to be a complacent online activist. You know what I mean, ‘I feel slightly convicted by this emotionally moving video about how we need to drill wells in Africa. I think I’ll share it on my page and everyone will think I’m such a concerned citizen.’ I am guilty of this. Yes, it’s a good thing to spread awareness, but the problem with this is that it makes it too easy, and people end up feeling they have done something to give back when they haven’t done very much at all.

Too big a problem?

I think people feel powerless to do much in the face of such monstrous problems, both locally and globally. I know I do. Many feel they can’t afford to donate, or don’t have time to get involved.  In our case we are a family of 5, and we live on one income. We don’t have much to spare. But we need to rethink the value of our money. We need to realize that our currency can go a long way in other parts of the world.  Most people can afford 30 or 40 dollars a month, and that can make all the difference.

This post, I think, is more for me that for anyone else reading.  It’s been a long time since we have actually been sacrificial givers, and as a family I think it’s time to start making some changes.  Every child is so unique and valued in God’s eyes. How many pictures of malnourished children will I have to see before I am moved to help? We are taking baby steps. Our church is putting together AIDS care kits that will go to support families in southern Africa affected by HIV/AIDS.  As a family, we are going to make up a kit to donate. It’s something small that will have a tangible impact.

When I really think about it, it’s the least we can do. We have so much and it would be wrong to sit back and do nothing while so much of the world suffers. It’s not much, but it’s a start. Slowly, we have to change our thinking so that we are always looking for ways to help, and eventually, it becomes second nature. What a gift that would be if I could raise my children to see a need, and be the first to help.

If you want to donate, or make up an AIDS care kit yourself, go to: http://www.themeetinghouse.com/getting-involved/compassion/global-compassion/aids-care/



In my next post I will be talking more about the guilt I’ve been feeling, and how that impact’s my faith in God.