What kind of images come to your mind when you think of “desensitization?” Most often we hear this word in terms of sex and violence.
Miriam-Webster defines desensitization as causing someone to feel less affected. For example, the more sex and violence we are exposed to, the more familiar we become with them, and therefore, our emotional reaction becomes decreases.
This topic arises in the media every so often when there is an overtly violent act in society (think school shootings, twerking, etc.).
The Impact of Familiarity
To me, it is fascinating how cultures change as a result of this phenomenon. Repeat one idea enough and it will eventually be accepted by the masses – slowly at first, and then all of a sudden.
The more exposure an idea receives, the more power it receives. Sheer numbers is all it takes to re-define sense, truth, and reality as we know it.
This is the phenomenon eating away at American gratitude – day-by-day and year-by-year.
The Response to Bread Crumbs
Recently, I was discussing the idea of gratitude with a friend. I remarked how over-played the idea seemed to be. After all, I talk about gratitude each and every day. I thought I had this idea down. Understood. Mastered. But, in reality, I found myself desensitized.
Graciously, without preaching or judging, my friend suggested I search Youtube for a video called “Picking Bread in Syria.” You can watch it here. The video is only a few minutes long.
In the video, a dirty ten year old girl and her brother are interviewed in Syria. They are crouched at the side of a road, working to pick tiny crumbs of bread out of the dirt. The pile of filthy bread is being collected on what looks like a piece of cardboard or debris from the road.
The girl is not bothered by the stranger’s questions. But neither can she be bothered to stop her search for food. In the whole five minutes of the interview she looks up once. These two have lived hungry for at least a year. Scrounging crumbs and making soup with their treasure is a daily routine.
When the interviewer asks what message they would like to send to the world that abandoned them, her response is nothing short of surprising: “The only thing I would say to the people is to be happy and blessed with what you have.”
There is no anger. There is no victimization. There is no resentment. There is a blessing.
Wow. I am not sure I have ever witnessed a display of greater Christ-like attitude.
Imagine all you could eat for the next year were crumbs off the street. With every meal you eat, you are stil hungry. Evenings are dreaded because hunger pangs drive off your ability to sleep. What would be your response? Would your words reflect hope or injustice?
This little girl says “If no one is on our side, God is on our side. We are patient and God will find a solution.”
Just as the familiarization of poverty has affected this young boy and girl, so the familiarization of abundance has affected us in America.
The Response to Traffic
What happens when you come across unexpected traffic? What is your response?
I am ashamed to say my previous response has been to curse the traffic, pick up my cell phone and notify my dinner date that I’ll be late becaue of crazy-stupid traffic. Maybe I’ll huff and puff a little to show my frustration. And finally, I’ll turn up the free music on my radio to distract me from the extra 15 minutes I’ll spend away from my too-large-for-my-stomach dinner order.
Even though I have been to third-world countries. Even though I have seen poverty first hand. I’ve been desensitized. The constant barrage of abundance in the US inevitably creeps into my focus when I let my guard down.
Thank God the internet can be used for God’s purposes as well as evil’s.
Today, I hope you will join me in taking up our mental faculties to combat this foe called desensitization. It preys on our gratitude and seeks to devour it.
I pray we will no longer sit in abundance and feel cheated. No longer will we feel wronged by high gas prices, student loans, living with parents, or a small cheese selection at the super-Walmart.
My prayer is that we re-dedicate our minds and adjust our perspective to include the world beyond our doorsteps. That we see the real truth and not the truth we’ve fashioned from our tunnel-vision. I pray we shake off the ease of ignorance in favor of embracing reality. I pray we search for global justice instead of personal vindication.
Lord, by your glory and grace, I beg you, give us ears to hear and eyes to see.
Today, I reclaim gratitude with a new found awe and respect for its power. I reclaim it humbly, knowing now that I have never truly understood the depth of its meaning or the significance of its power.
Please share this if you believe that gratitude is being devoured. Please share this if you want to awaken a new understanding for gratitude in this nation and in this world. Re-sensitization is possible with the will and dedication to spread the idea.
Finally, may you go in peace and – in the words of a 10 year old Syrian girl – “be happy and blessed with what you have.”