When much is given, much also is required

Once again this week, I’ve been thinking about “things.” My things!
My treasures and junk. My files and books. My handy kitchen appliances and backyard waterfall. My dresses for spring, and my pots and pans for cooking.
It takes things to make life fun and easy. But at the same time, it’s things that make life difficult and complicated. And sometimes, I feel like clearing out the accumulation of a lifetime and starting over with just the barest of necessities.
It would feel so good to be free of things.
Yes, that’s how I feel sometimes. But not this week. This week, I’ve done nothing but give thanks for the things in my life. It would be incredibly selfish and heartless to do otherwise, faced as we are with the displacement of tens of thousands–even hundreds of thousands–of newly-created refugees.
It breaks the heart to see them. Walking across cold and rugged mountain terrain; sometimes travelling in crowded trucks or railroad cars. All of their things either have been left behind or destroyed, and there is little hope of ever going back.
They have no cooking pans or fires to cook on. And even if they did, they have no food to cook.
There’s no change of clothing. No family photos or books. No treasures from the ancestors. No money for the future. No beds to lie on or chairs to sit in. It is a life without hope.
It’s hard to know how to respond to a tragedy of these proportions. Most of us are too far away to do any personal good, except for donations to international charities.
But we aren’t too far away to learn, and the very first learning is that war never pays.
It doesn’t really matter who’s right and who’s wrong. Or who’s responsible. The only thing that matters is the unimaginable human horror. The faces of the old and the young and the middle-aged that we have seen this past week will haunt us as long as we live.
If those were our faces, we would know why war must end forever. When life gets difficult–when war comes or the death of a loved one–the great danger is getting mired in despair. But we simply can’t afford to do it.
We can stop for a period of grief but then life must go on and hope must be rediscovered–even in the midst of tragedy.
This is one of those times. It’s time to ask ourselves what we should learn about living from those who have lost so much.
Certainly, our awareness of what we have should be heightened. And every day, we should say a prayer of thanks for family and friends, houses and communities, and the “things” that make our lives comfortable.
An 18th-century author wrote, “To whom nothing is given, of him can nothing be required.” But that’s not us. We are people who have received much and of us much will be required.
To this day, ask yourself what you can do to show appreciation for all of your good fortune. And start thinking of ways you can help foster peaceful solutions that will avert future wars on this planet.
Each of us must do this for ourselves–and for our children–for the next victims of war could be us.

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