"Better off" - in better circumstances than another. For many of us, we could look around us and see we are "better off" than someone else around us. We might have a loving family still around us to care for us and us them - "better off" than the one who has lost their loved one. We might be enjoying the privilege of a hard day's work - "better off" than the one who stands in the unemployment line. We could be eating our favorite meal at a nice clean restaurant - "better off" than the one who will dig through the dumpsters behind it tonight to find their meal. The list could go on and on - but in so many ways we can say we are "better off" in this circumstance, with this relationship, in this job, etc. Despite being "better off" than in another circumstance, relationship, job, etc., we find ways of complaining about where it is we find ourselves - especially when it comes to our relationships! What we tend to do is compare where we are in terms of relationship with where someone else is in terms of their relationship. For example, when a recently divorced woman looks around at other in her circle who have found dating relationships while she has not, she can either determine she is "better off" because she doesn't "need a man" or she can bemoan her position in life saying they are "better off" because they have someone new in theirs. Either way, the turmoil seeing someone else as "better off" than you causes you great concern. It is at the heart of many of our struggles financially, within relationship, in our jobs, and in our country's governing affairs. We truly need a better appreciation of the things in life which really give us stability, a sense of peace, and a sense of being part of a bigger purpose - these are things which will actually help us in the long run.
You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone, because then you will get more enjoyment out of what you earn. If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble. If you sleep alone, you won’t have anyone to keep you warm on a cold night. Someone might be able to beat up one of you, but not both of you. As the saying goes, “A rope made from three strands of cord is hard to break.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 CEV)
I saw a post today on a friend's Facebook page which really made me think about my friends a little. Here is what it said:
"One awesome thing about Eeyore is that even though he is basically clinically depressed, he still gets invited to participate in adventures and shenanigans with all his friends. And they never expect him to pretend to feel happy, they just love him anyway, and they never leave him behind or ask him to change."
Now, I know this is not necessarily a passage you could quote out of scripture, but I think it comes pretty close to expressing what I think Solomon may have been trying to say in the passage above. We need each other - regardless of our emotional ups or downs, in the good times and the difficult ones, and when we are in trouble or sailing through life without a care in the world. We cannot live "exclusively" and we cannot "exclude" from our life those who need us so much to "include" them in ours! WE are the ones "better off" by their presence!
As I was cooking dinner last night, I chose to do it all on the BBQ outside. After doing a little prep in the kitchen of the veggies and chicken, I headed outdoors to get the grill ready. Almost immediately my mom came to the door asking what she could do. Now, for those of you who BBQ, you know this is pretty much a one person job. I told her she could just keep me company if she wanted a little fresh air and she was pretty much content to just enjoy the time with me. My sister, on the other hand, soon quipped, "You don't get a chance for any privacy, do you?" Now, considering she lives alone in her home, this may seem like a really big thing, but I have chosen to have mom with me, so "privacy" is not a big deal. In fact, I enjoy the company, even when it is just "hanging out" quietly while the meat sizzles on the grill and the veggies sear into perfect tenderness. WE are better off because we have each other! I don't "make" mom's life "better off" - WE make each other's life "better off"!
If you are not familiar with the story of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne, you won't understand the Eeyore illustration above. The story is about a bear in the woods who has various friends ranging from a bouncy tiger who has trouble sitting still, a kangaroo mother and her child who enjoys every new experience through the eyes of a child, a cute little piglet everyone could love, and a particularly "down on life" little donkey friend named Eeyore. Eeyore is always misplacing his tail. He mopes around a lot. He kind of moves slow and everything seems like a big "bother" to him. He isn't the bouncy tiger who has boundless energies and is always enthusiastic to begin some new adventure. He isn't the stable mother kangaroo who always cares so well for her little child Roo. He is a donkey with a tail he cannot manage to keep track of! In fact, even his diet is a little odd - he makes a diet of thistles - thorny little thistles! He is grey and slow and old. He even lives in a place on the map labeled as "Eeyore's Gloomy Place: Rather Boggy and Sad". Now, how many of you would want an "Eeyore" in your "circle" of friends?
To me, Eeyore represents many things, but in essence I think what Milne was helping kids to understand in the story (and we adults can take a lesson or two here ourselves) is this ability to accept each other. In so doing, we actually make each other "better off". In truth, we need each other - even when we don't see the immediate value in the relationship or appreciate why it has to be so hard to be in relationship with some people. The one who stands alone in life doesn't get this. They don't understand how it is even people so different from us can be of such great value in our lives. I don't know where you are today, but if you want strength in your walk, you need other people. You need the "link" they provide to a vantage point beyond your own. Eeyore and Tigger were so much at opposite ends of the pole when it came to their personality. Tigger was always upbeat and optimistic - Eeyore negative and kind the naysayer. Tigger trusted everyone - Eeyore saw them as having heads stuffed with grey fluff! Yet, in the tremendous differences between the two, they were lost without each other. They were a perfect compliment to each other - giving a little of their unique view on life to the other. In turn, they learned from one another.
We are truly "better off" when we have each other. Just sayin!