I had cataract surgery in January. I had developed a stigmatism in the affected eye that wreaked havoc on my night driving… instead of one streetlight, I saw five! Every road I drove down started to look like the Strip in Las Vegas.
So, the surgery was welcome and took care of the worst problem immediately.
In fact, I was so excited over my improved eyesight that I experienced some chagrin when I realized I was still going to need glasses for reading.
And so, in May I was back in the optometrist chair, with the doctor trying first one set of lenses and then another over my eyes asking, “Which is better?” Meaning, which lenses allowed me to see better, to see more clearly?
Through trial and error, we found the right prescription and a couple of weeks later I was the not-so-proud owner of new glasses.
That experience became a good metaphor for other things… including gratitude.
Each of us, I think, goes through life with a particular set of lenses. Many of us have more than one set – but the typical lens through which we look at the world… that frame of reference or perspective that has been developed by our life experiences and honed by our personality – that lens or perspective determines how we see the world.
For example: are we a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty kind of person? Because two people can look at a goblet filled up to the middle and see it quite differently.
Is it usually sunny in our world… or often a bit stormy, no matter what the actual weather is?
Are we an Eeyore or a Tigger?
Optometrists and psychologists and philosophers will tell us how we see determines what we see: do we see a world filled with possibility or with threat? Do we see people as basically trustworthy and good or as immoral? Do we view our own life with confidence and hope or with a sense of unfairness?
Our world as it’s currently configured: still coming off a pandemic, filled with division and anger, environmentally unstable… it is easy to see that world through a lens of grievance. Too easily we focus on what we don’t have, should have, can’t have… rather than on what we do have.
The moral of the Gospel – the moral of our whole faith – is to keep that lens of gratitude in front of us so that we see life through the lens of thanksgiving.
For example: when I went into the eye doctor’s office this spring, I saw the experience through a lens of grievance – why wasn’t my eyesight perfect after expensive surgery?
I could have looked instead through a lens of gratitude: I had two healthy eyeballs in my head; I COULD see, even without glasses, I did not suffer blindness, and I had the resources to fix whatever vision issues remained.
I had a lot to be thankful for.
Each day, I believe, we have a choice about how we will see and that choice impacts not only our own mood but our relationships with other people. When our world is dominated by a sense of grievance, people too often become means to our own ends: they either give us what we want or feel we deserve and then we affirm and accept them; or they don’t – and then they become obstacles or burdens.
It’s our choice of what lenses we put on every morning.