Thursday, April 18, 2013

Complaining In Comfort: Looking for an Outlet

I am lucky enough to live in an apartment complex where other people are tasked with things for which I, in any other situation, would be responsible. Today, the maintenance people came through and mowed our newly acquired Spring-time grass. If they hadn't done it, nobody would have done it. And, by my standards, they did an adequate job. Sure, there were some fringes of uncut grass and a few blades left unswept, but it's gonna grow back anyway... plus, they're probably not done with it yet... either way, I thought it looked nice.

That didn't stop some (at least one) from complaining. Someone on Facebook complained, "clumps of grass weren't picked up... this place looks like a budget motel ...this maintenance crew should be expected to do a somewhat decent job!" Now, I don't know what standards they were accustomed to in their previous residence, but this is a pretty nice apartment complex (the nicest place I've ever lived!), but this complaint seemed pretty uncalled-for and elitist for a member of a Seminary community (especially since the job was just done today!). I was embarrassed for what I can only assume the perception will be from the hard working maintenance people when this complaint reaches them. 

I don't mean to pick on this one guy... I've been surprised all year at the complaints I've heard from fellow Christians here at the seminary about the work that other do on our behalf. This was just the straw that broke the camel's back for me. As Christians, we should be striving for compassion and (at the very least) gratitude for those people around us who serve us by working on our behalf. But perhaps we complain precisely because of how comfortable we are... perhaps we know that we should be bothered by something, but we're still searching for the right outlet.

So often it seems that we who live relatively comfortable lives in the United States are just looking for an outlet... to complain, to fight, to express some conjured notion of discomfort. This suggests to me that we cannot help but sense the ambiguity by which we are surrounded, we are created to be at odds with the world as we know it. And so we get angry, we get frustrated, we complain, and we act out. That's fine. But are we finding the right outlet? Perhaps what we--we who live comfortable lives--should really be doing is identifying first with the real source of our discomfort, and then (especially) with the discomfort and suffering of others. Perhaps then we'd find a fight worth fighting and a worthy outlet for our complaint and activism.

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