I was sixteen when I saw the movie “The Way We Were”. One scene has stayed with me for 50 years. Hubbell Gardiner’s college professor praises and reads his essay to the class. It was entitled “The All-American Smile.” Maybe the scene was the beginning of a life-long dream to have anyone appreciate my writing in school, church, or online.
The words that the screenwriter set in the late 1930’s are what have stayed with me for five decades. “In a way, he was like the country he lived in. Everything came too easily to him, but at least he knew it.” Sitting in the dark theater beside my date, I knew that everything came too easily to me. I couldn’t take credit for the “pre-natal brilliance” of choosing my family of origin. I couldn’t change my birthright. So that night I vowed to remain aware of it.
When I read memoirs sharing personal struggles about how to overcome this, or how to overcome that, I think that my memoir title would be: “How to Overcome an Easy Life.” I’ve sought ways to be aware of, grateful for, and responsive to what I’ve received in life. My ministry has given me the privilege of compassionately walking beside individuals through their suffering, finding meaning in the struggles I have, and seeking inclusion, liberty, and justice for all.
Today on the Web I discovered I’d remembered the quote verbatim, but I also learned the next line: “About once a month he worried that he was a fraud. But then most everyone he knew was more fraudulent.” Guess I should have kept paying attention that first night.
What have you received from others in your life? What struggles do you continue to face today? What has come too easily to you? How do you practice an awareness of gratitude?