Monday, June 10, 2013

Everyone Else

It all began as a simple conversation about summer camps for kids with special needs.  The other moms that were standing around with me at the birthday party for a child in Josh's special education class began sharing about various day camps for special needs kids that they had absolutely loved.  When I asked more about them I realized why I had not tried them.  These camps were way beyond my price range.

This should not have surprised me because all of our kids are 1:1 type of kids.  That is, they each need a full time, dedicated adult to be around them at all times.  Our kids can't be at regular camps where they have a teen counselor for every 5 or 8 or 10 kids.  No, many of our kids have seizures or would wander off or would have no way of participating in most activities without constant attention and guidance.  Higher ratio of adult to kid means higher cost.

In that moment, I realized that there are a lot of resources out there for kids like Josh.  I just can't afford them.  And these moms could.  I looked around and realized that every child at this party had come with a parent and a full time nanny.  One boy had come with two nannies (one for himself and one for his typically developing sibling).  I started imagining the freedom that I could have if I had a full time nanny.  And a nanny for Josh's sisters. . . what would THAT be like?

Among the guests at the party were the aides or therapists from the school classroom.  Apparently, the birthday girl's family had hired several of them to work with her at home, for private pay.  I had no idea that you could do that but I could guess that their time came at a significant (for us) cost.

I looked around the house that belonged to the family that was hosting the party and realized that it was a lovely, lovely home.  I heard that they were in the midst of moving to a larger (probably lovelier) home in our same city.  I saw the nice cars that the other guests drove to this party and imagined that they, too, lived in lovely, spacious homes where their children experienced excellent developmental therapies in tidy, well-organized rooms.

My attention turned to how these moms were dressed.  Their clothes were expensive and stylish.  Somehow, they seemed to have had time to do their hair and put on make up (maybe while those nannies were watching their children?)  I glanced at a mirror momentarily while following Josh around the house.   The tired looking person who looked back at me was wearing a stained t-shirt and $5 flip flops. Her ponytail begged to be redone.

It was in this context that I started down the path of covetous thinking.  Specifically, I began to entertain thoughts like, "Everyone else has a lot more help with their kids than I do."  I began to suspect that "everyone else" can afford developmentally fantastic camps for their special needs kids and that "everyone else" must have plenty of space and resources to take care of yourself and look fabulous at all times.

Now, the problem with "everyone else" thinking is that it's usually formed in the midst of jealousy of a specific group of people that you are focused on and without very much perspective on the bigger picture.  For example, do I really think that all parents of special needs kids have plenty of help?  Does every family have a lovely, spacious home?  Of course not!  In fact, not every family in Josh's class has tons of resources.  It just happened that the folks who had gathered at this party did.

When I am in my right mind, I know that I have been blessed with a lot of support and resources.  It's like when my girls come home and declare that "everyone else" is going to Hawaii or Disneyland for spring break.  There is no objectivity, only desire together with a sense of having been slighted and a good dose of ungratefulness.  Also, there is the refusal to consider and factor in the people who have more suffering and fewer blessings than we do.

Our hearts get to the place of wanting things that others have and we add fuel to the fire by believing, even temporarily, that "everyone else" has them.  The fruit of this, of course, is unhappiness and self pity.  Have you ever hung out with a bitter person who is convinced that they always get the short end of the stick and that "everyone else" has it better?  Not fun, I tell you.  Personally, I'd rather dig ditches in the hot sun.  God, please don't let me be like that!

So, today I am purging myself of "everyone else" thinking.  I am asking God to help me to accept that my life is my life and that He knows what He is doing in laying down the boundaries of my life in the right places.  I am going to continue to put my all into making my life what I want it to be but I don't want to be distracted by (my perspective on) the lives of other people.  I want to be a joyful, grateful person and I'm convinced that covetousness and comparison are not my friends in that journey.

What's your thing that you are tempted to think that "everyone else" has?  How do you need to lay it down today?


  1. No specific words to share, but I read this. I struggle with this sometimes, and then Frank and I are stunned when we find out that we are the "perfect people" to other people we konw.

  2. One of my favorite singers has a tattoo of a quote: "Comparison is the thief of joy". I'm pretty sure I need that tattooed on my soul. You put the same thought into lovely words here. Thank you.

  3. I fall into the self-pity trap when I see people having blessed relationships with their parents. The first thought that came to my mind when I read your question, "Do you ever feel that everyone else has something that you don't have?," was ...Yes, "real" parents (parents without mental illness). I make a regular choice to lay it down before my Heavenly Father, and I remind myself (or perhaps it's the wonderful Holy Spirit who reminds me) that I most likely wouldn't have the relationship I have with Him if I didn't have such a huge "parent-hole." So praise God!

  4. thanks for this, Susan. I have definitely stood in those flip-flops (though not often since moving to England), and listened to the conversations about resources out of my price range. I find myself often observing (and trying not to dwell on it) that things would be easier if only... Ususally I try to remind myself that, as far as resources go, I take for granted things for which many in the world hunger and thirst. As far as family support goes, well, I have a ring I wear on my right ring finger, and I say Psalm 16.8 when I put it on each day: 'because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.' Some days I am, and some days not, but at least I know where my real support is to be found.

  5. My self pity trap comes when I think about my kids and what resources and relationships they might have if we lived back in the US. I'm pushed to the point of decision in answering these questions. Is God enough or not? Does God see me or not? Is God strong enough to penetrate my children's hearts and draw them to himself? I usually end up with, "I believe, help my unbelief!" Thanks for sharing and inviting us to respond.

  6. Amen and so timely! It's amazing how quickly one's joy can turn to dissatisfaction in the face of comparison. Actually when we first moved to Palo Alto, I felt old, poor, and unemployed (in the face of 21 year old dot com millionaires!). I need to remind myself of God's grace and provision every day.

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