The period between Thanksgiving and the New Year is all too often reduced to receiving those Christmas-time letters that invariably talk of amazing vacations, state championships, reports of honor rolls or trophies won for most every honor under the sun. Last year we received a letter that included the phrase, “We deserved it.” “The sender said, “Over the summer we cruised the rivers of Europe for three weeks because we deserved it!”
What We Are Owed
I always keep in mind the sentiment made famous by the great psychiatrist and author Viktor Frankl, who said, “Life doesn’t owe us anything, it is what we owe life.” I have never forgotten those words. To paraphrase Thomas Moore, “We too often take a banker’s view of life, believing that if we don’t get out as much as we put in, we’re being cheated.
It is ironic the way that opportunity, wealth, and success have shifted our direction as a society by immense feelings of entitlement among people today. It would not be surprising that when history recounts this generation, it will be known as the generation of entitlement. We are living in an era that people feel that the world, whoever the world is, owes every person something in return for our utter existence. Through this entitlement, we are slowly destroying liberties that generations before us never once took for granted.
All About Me
The problem with entitlement today is that it spans all ages, and as I observe people, it is expressly true of children. More times than I can count, I have been asked to do things as a speaker and author because the person asking believes they “deserve it.” Entitlement starts with adults. When a teacher walks into a staff development session late, with no apology or acknowledgment, how can we expect children to act differently?
In today’s world of parenting, protecting the well being of a child, even at the risk of stifling the child, is raising an “all about me” generation. Children often believe that if they wait long enough, someone will pick up after them. If they ask enough times, someone will give in. If they act disappointed or sad, someone will give them what they want.
More Than I Deserve
In September this year, I delivered a keynote speech in San Antonio to a group of IT professionals. In my talk, I highlighted the virtues of happiness, family, and connection. At the book signing following my presentation, a gentleman, who I will call “Tim,” told me a story of love and connection. He always suspected that he had been adopted. When he turned 50, Tim decided to find his birth mother simply for a sense of closure. His adoptive family members were unsure of where it would lead, but they said they understood. They said they never met the birth mother, but that she might have been from a small town outside of Chicago. He did genetic testing on himself and then, with the help of a genetics expert located some possible matches on a database. In time, he found a related family member and that family member contacted the birth mother. She agreed to a meeting. It was an emotional, supportive and powerful meeting with many tears and reconnection. Tim introduced his birth mother to his adoptive family. “It was the best present I could have given everyone,” he said. “I am so thankful for the gift of reconnection. I have been given so much more than I deserve.”
Life is Short
We are not given a good or a bad life. We are given a life. It’s up to us to make it good or bad. Life is short. Don’t ever waste it. Life has its bad times. Put them in your past. Life is a chance. Make sure you take it. You never know what’s around the corner, therefore, you keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and realize you’ve climbed a mountain. Life isn’t about what you deserve. Life is about what you make it.