I have only read a few pages of Parched and don't have anything as interesting to say as Melanie and Betty in their discussion in the comments, but I thought I’d throw this thought out there as a new post just to continue the conversation. After reading the first chapter and knowing where the story is going, I found myself wishing that I had a drinking or drug problem or some other scandalous situation, just so that I could struggle through a tragedy and survive, and so that I could have an excuse for the self-pity I wallow in at times. I can’t blame my minor woes on anyone other than myself, because I’m the one who makes them up. I’m like the prodigal son’s older brother who complains about the lack of appreciation. The virtue of gratitude seems to come easier to people who have lost everything and had life restored. I just heard a new story of loss and hardship from Katrina the other day, and found myself wishing we had been here so we could lose everything, too. (Maybe this is related to the anticipation of Christmas glut.) What I should be feeling is immense gratitude that we have been spared those sufferings and a sense of admiration for those who have suffered much and survived. I know this in my head, but it’s easy to let the poor me story crowd out those virtuous thoughts.
So perhaps my Advent challenge as I read the rest of this book on the trip to gather with family is to remember how blessed I am. We helped sort the gifts for the giving tree at church the other day, and I saw the name of a family from our school. Their kids are at the parish school on tuition assistance because they lost their business in Katrina and then lost their home in a foreclosure and had to declare bankruptcy. They went from riches to proverbial rags overnight. There but for the grace of God go I.
But perhaps I belittle the losses I have experienced, and I know I forget the communal nature of suffering with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Reading dark and grungy tales confirms that the story of our souls is one of loss and redemption. I am reminded that even if the ways that we give into the temptation to isolate ourselves are only venial instead of mortal sin, they are a rejection of grace requiring a conversion of heart. So I'm interested in reading more to find out what King's initial moment of conversion was, to discover how she continues to turn away from the urge to give into temptation.