January 12 - 18, 2004  






Counting our blessings in 'Zombieland'
Remember the scene from the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy steps out of the black-and-white world of her Kansas farmhouse and into the color world of Oz? Everything looks astonishingly brilliant, luminous, surreal, overwhelming. 
It's sort of how Breyten Breytenbach, the poet and former South African political prisoner, describes feeling when he was released after years of incarceration. In prison his spirit had been deadened by institutionalization, exemplified by his experience of color.
"The colors in prison are the no colors of public places or sad public places," Breytenbach told an NPR interviewer. "You see gray, you see metal colors, you see  kind of an off-green, with a bit of luck you see a little bit of brown. But mostly it's just infinite shades of gray and dirty green."
Released from prison, he was overwhelmed by the colors all around him, as well as the freedoms he was denied all those years. No surprises there, huh? What is surprising is his observation of people.
"I felt like I was moving into a complete world of zombies. ... These people don't really know what life's about. They don't feel walking in the street. They don't see the colors," Breytenbach recalled. "They're not alive. Their antennae are not vibrating."
Breytenbach's comments can inform many of us in America who live in secure neighborhoods, decent houses with well-stocked pantries. It's so easy to take for granted all we have.
These thoughts came to mind when I found an item included in this week's Gleanings. Newsday, the Metropolitan New York City newspaper, told the story of a man found frozen to death on a thin mattress in a warren of nests that homeless people had created for themselves under an elevated section of the Bruckner Expressway in the Bronx. (Check out the story, as well as the gallery of photos.) Do human beings actually live in the forgotten places underneath highways? In New York City? In January? When the temperature drops below zero?
Sadly, the answer is yes. How much do we take for granted when we are really unaware of the heat available at the turn of a thermostat dial, or the hot water at the turn of a tap, the music with the flick of the CD switch, the cash with the tap of a few ATM buttons, and on and on. 
Awareness is the foundational ingredient for stewardship. Awareness of our abundance, we are grateful for all we have -- gifts from God, every one.  Without awareness, its hard to be grateful, and without gratitude it's hard for us to develop other important stewardship attitudes, such as thrift, generosity or justice. Without awareness, we are just zombies living in a complete world of zombies.
Rob Blezard, Webmaster (webmaster@stewardshipoflife.org)
Resources New This Week: Jan. 12 - 18
Poor Economy: 'I'll Steal Your Donors'
How will your non-profit organization weather the 'perfect storm' created by the cost of the war, the weak economy and rising unemployment rates?" In this article, an expert looks at three typical responses and outlines strategies for survival. From onPhilanthropy.com.
 Extravagant Stewardship
"Our job here on earth is to give others a glimpse into the kingdom.  It is to let others see the good and gracious and loving Father in what we do and how we live." In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.
 Money: Do Our Attitudes and Practices Reflect Our Faith?  "I need to daily remind myself that everything I have, yes even life itself, is a gift from God. I do this by offering a prayer of thanksgiving at the beginning of every day for this new day and for the many blessings that continue to be bestowed by God. We are tempted by the sin within us and the multitude of events around us to want to put our faith in man. Money especially has this power. " By Duane Engelhardt. From the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
 For Lutherans, Stewardship Is More Than Just Money for the Church
"The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is offering services to help busy people evaluate their use of money, share their faith, and teach children about living and giving." An informative story by  Melissa Ramirez of the ELCA News Service.
 Seeing New Possibilities
"The person living the StewardLife gets new eyes to see life from a different perspective. ... We view all of God's gifts of time, resources, people, relationships, community, diversity, talent, industry, government as assets - as capacity or potential - to build God's kingdom."  StewardLife from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.