Disrespect has become a part of our American culture. We have a tendency to look down and criticize people without really having an understanding of what they went through to get to where they are. Knowledge and understanding of the past causes us to become more respectful and less critical of the present. I’m reminded of a story I read recently in a book entitled, “The Men Who United the States” by Simon Winchester:
Simon Winchester visited a dwindling community in the 1980’s called Paradise, Arkansas. Only a handful of old-timers remained. Most of the younger generation had grown up and moved away. They had found educational opportunities and job opportunities elsewhere. He spent a few pleasant days questioning the friendly locals about the origin of their small town.
While visiting one evening, Simon made a snide remark about how inappropriate the name paradise was for this small, sparsely populated town. Especially in view of the fact that it was very near to becoming a ghost town. The atmosphere of the place caused it to be considered almost completely dead.
One of the elderly inhabitants called him to a hilltop looking out toward the east. He asked Simon, “What do you see?”
Far in the distance, the brownish, muddy waters of the Mississippi River flowed through the valley. In between the distant river and the hill they were standing on, was miles of marsh and swamp water.
The old man told Simon to put himself in the shoes of the settlers traveling through that area during the frontier days. “Imagine you have drifted down the river for weeks in a cramped riverboat with your family and meager possessions. Then picture you and your weary little group disembarking on yonder river bank, striking out through the mosquito infested swamp,” he further emphasized. He went on to paint a picture of their severe trials in the intense July summer heat. No doubt the progress was very slow and fear of the dangerous creatures lurking nearby haunted every step.
When the exhausted stragglers finally trudged up to the top of the hill, they collapsed in a heap. As they sat at the crest of the rise, looking back over the land they had just traversed, a west wind began to blow across their backs. Perhaps it was the first cool breeze they had felt in a long time.
Somebody said, “This is paradise!”
Our lives may not look like much of a success to many, however, if those same people knew our story and all the many challenges and difficulties that we have faced, then they’d understand why we have chosen to count our blessing’s instead of troubles. What God has given us may not look like much to others, but if they’d seen what we went through to get it, they’d understand why we’re so thankful to have it.