Bob Tamasy: The Problem With Taking Things For Granted

Monday, June 14, 2021 - by Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy

Quite a few years ago, before the shattering of the Iron Curtain and the disunifying of the Soviet Union, a friend in Atlanta hosted two Russian visitors. As hosts often do when people come to visit from out of town, my friend wanted to introduce his guests to some of the local sites. One of the destinations was a huge, indoor shopping mall.

 

“Who doesn’t like a trip to the mall?” he thought. Well, he found out. The Russians, accustomed to long food lines and sparse store shelves in their home country during Communist rule, went out of curiosity but quickly experienced sensory overload.

 

After about five minutes, the visitors rushed up to their hosts and insisted, “We must go now.” “But we’ve just gotten here,” my friend protested.

“No,” one of the men repeated, “We must go. Too much – too much!” Trying to comprehend the material abundance everywhere they looked had overwhelmed them.

 

I was reminded of this while viewing a video produced by PragerU, a conservative non-profit devoted to teaching about the values that make America great. In the video, an immigrant from Cuba goes to Walmart  for the first time. In the grocery section, he’s amazed at both the array and size of the fresh produce. He picks up an onion about the size of a baseball in disbelief.

 

The newcomer to the U.S.A. next goes to the small appliance section, and then the toy department where he marvels at the many dolls on display. How would his daughter react if she saw this, he wonders. As the Cuban speaks on the video, you can see astonishment in his eyes. There was nothing like this in his homeland.

 

By comparison, how do lifelong Americans react in similar circumstances? We’re more likely to respond with a shrug, oblivious to the abundance all around us. I’ve actually felt a bit annoyed at times by having some many choices: Going into a paint store and discovering hundreds of different shades of…white, or blue, or green. Or walking down a grocery store aisle and encountering 55 varieties of baked beans – in sizes ranging from single-serving to “big enough to feed an army.” Why so many?

 

Remember the great toilet paper panic of 2020? (Who can forget, right?) In two blinks of an eye, the shelves went from stacks and stacks of TP to absolutely bare, causing some to consider subscribing again to the daily newspaper – just in case they ran out and needed an alternative. The crisis got so urgent that Mr. Whipple nearly came out of retirement to hawk his hoarded supplies of Charmin.

 

Such is the blessing – and the curse – of living in a prosperous nation. We can easily grow complacent, taking for granted our access to goods that people in many other countries can find only in their dreams.

 

Maybe that’s why one of the virtues so rare in our society is contentment. Our desire for more seems limitless. Too much is never enough. Meanwhile, folks from other nations who visit – or just watch American programs on TV – find such abundance unfathomable.

 

I’m not suggesting we should go on a collective guilt trip, but maybe it’s time we started to gain some perspective. In a letter of exhortation to his young protégé, Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote, “godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

 

In this same passage we read, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Some have incorrectly quoted this as “the love of money is the root of all evil,” which it doesn’t say at all. But as Paul concludes his thought, “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

 

Perhaps the greatest problem with material abundance – excess – is that it deceives us into trusting our own self-sufficiency. Which in turn diminishes our sense of dependence upon God. Jesus spoke about this, chiding His hearers for worrying about their daily needs: 


“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?... For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”
(Matthew 6:25-33).

 

In one sense, it’s wonderful to know we live in a society where we typically don’t have to worry about whether we’ll find a loaf of bread to buy when we go to the store. But it might be good to occasionally see things as folks visiting from other less “blessed” lands. Wouldn’t it be something to go to a mall and suddenly decide, “Too much!” and return home, happily content with what we have and not feeling an urge to acquire more?

* * *

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is btamasy@comcast.net.


Bob Tamasy: Timing Isn’t Everything, But It’s Important

"God's Light Always Overcomes Darkness" Is Sermon Topic Sunday At Middle Valley Church Of God

Steve Ellison: Shall I Relent?


The adage informs us that “timing is everything.” I’m sure there’s quite a bit of truth to that, but sometimes it gets a bit confusing. For instance, we’ve probably all experienced being ... (click for more)

Middle Valley Church of God, at 1703 Thrasher Pike in Hixson, announces that Pastor Mitch McClure will continue preaching on the theme 'Moving Towards Heaven' on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Pastor ... (click for more)

As we continue our journey through the Bible chronologically, stopping to examine the questions that God has asked of individuals and groups, we see that these questions must be rhetorical because ... (click for more)



Church

Bob Tamasy: Timing Isn’t Everything, But It’s Important

The adage informs us that “timing is everything.” I’m sure there’s quite a bit of truth to that, but sometimes it gets a bit confusing. For instance, we’ve probably all experienced being in the right place at the right time. I remember applying for a job once just as the previous editor of the newspaper had resigned. My timing couldn’t have been better. It turned out to be ... (click for more)

"God's Light Always Overcomes Darkness" Is Sermon Topic Sunday At Middle Valley Church Of God

Middle Valley Church of God, at 1703 Thrasher Pike in Hixson, announces that Pastor Mitch McClure will continue preaching on the theme 'Moving Towards Heaven' on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Pastor McClure's sermon title will be "God's Light Always Overcomes Darkness." Pastor McClure is presently teaching a Bible study on 'Have You Reached Your Boiling Point, Yet?' each Wednesday ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Walden Rezoning, Intended To Clear Way For Grocery Complex, Violated Land Use Regulations And The Law, Bradley County Judge Rules

A Bradley County judge has found that Walden officials’ 2019 decision to rezone a piece of property so it could be used for a grocery store complex was “illegal, arbitrary and capricious.” Consequently, Judge J. Michael Sharp said in a decision released Monday, the ordinance is declared invalid. The judge denied a request from landowner/developer/attorney John Anderson to ... (click for more)

Things Were Looking Good At The Convention Center, But Now Mike Shuford Is "Not So Sure"; Getting Workers Is Big Headache

Things were looking good at the Chattanooga Convention Center with new bookings starting to come on the books after the ruinous COVID seemed to be finally waning. However, longtime Executive Director Mike Shuford said with the new highly contagious Delta strain, "I'm not so sure." He said some who had planned future events are having second thoughts. Another big problem ... (click for more)

Opinion

Big Dogs At The City Get Most Of The Salary Money

The current crisis concerning recycling is nothing more than too much pork in the high end paychecks. The top 31 combined salaries in the city of Chattanooga amounts to $3,750,000 per year. That's right folks, millions. The average pay for these people is $121,000 coming from our hard-earned tax dollars. The average income of the citizens of Chattanooga is $26,200 per year based ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Liberty Above Mandates

It is no secret I’ve been on the COVID vaccine bandwagon since the very get-go. Due to my compromised immune system and my age (72) I am one of those at-risk people and I got my first shot the first minute I could; around Valentine’s Day. Since then, I’ve used my opinion pulpit to push the vaccine as hard as possible because I am totally convinced it saves lives. Therefore, this ... (click for more)