Living in the Lucky Country

Published in the Courier Mail, 1 January 2008

Let’s not take the new year ahead for granted, writes Ruth Limkin

IT MUST have been the juxtaposition of the day that made me look afresh.
It was a warm and humid evening — the type that Queensland summers seem to have. It was two days before Christmas and we were driving through suburban back streets.

I looked at scenery I had seen hundreds of times but it felt like I was seeing it with fresh eyes. Little post-war houses snugly in a row, lights behind drawn curtains.

Looking up, a possum was nimbly scampering across overhead lines. There was a sense of calm, of peace. It was suburban Australia and while far from perfect, the sense of gratefulness I felt for it was overwhelming.

I silently wondered for a moment why such ordinary experiences would elicit such a strong response. Back to the juxtaposition I spoke of.

I have had three friends recently return from working with Christian aid agencies in Cambodia. That very morning I had been speaking with one of them and he recounted some of the horrifying circumstances he had seen. I heard again some of the cold hard statistics of a nation that suffered a genocide and whose people now live in a country so riddled with land mines they find it near impossible to eke out a living.

And so, with images fresh in my mind of men who lost legs to cruelly planted explosives, it was no small surprise that I was looking with fresh eyes at suburbia.

I know there is talk of a housing affordability crisis and I do find myself wondering how friends will break into the real estate market. But clean drinking water is easily accessible.

I know that many Australians will overload credit cards at this time of year and many will be vulnerable to high interest rate loans. But we earn more than $1 a day.

On the world stage, we are a very lucky nation. We are economically prosperous and we have opportunity to create wealth. We have opportunities to share that wealth with those less fortunate around us without worrying about corrupt government officials diverting those funds.

We have safety nets for people who fall on hard times. We have a nation free from war within its borders. We have a police force and government who exercise power legitimately.

While we can all point to areas that could be improved, in our neighbourhood or nation, when we think about what we do have, we realise how blessed we are.
Rather than take such things for granted, it would do us much better if we lived with a predisposition to thankfulness.

As we look to the coming year, and think about our life, we can be reminded what a wonderful opportunity we have to live here in Australia. As we make our new year’s list today, and think about new habits, an excellent start would be to begin each day with the simple act of listing things we are thankful for.
When we remind ourself of all the good things in our life, we smile a little wider and walk a little lighter.

If we face this year with a predisposition to gratefulness, we will find ourself more aware of the good things around us. We may well then find that the neat little row of houses, and neighbourhood possum, will speak to us less of the mundane and more of the delight that comes from a thankful heart.
Ruth Limkin is a Brisbane pastor and writer