As a teenager I was envious of a fellow member of our church youth group. His parents were rich and they lived in a nice house and they had nice things including an airplane that he got to fly– something he mentioned in every conversation. He was handsome and the girls literally slobbered on themselves when he beamed his smile at them. And he was the most spiritual person in our youth group, saying the longest, most eloquent prayers which often included his airplane. Seriously, he worked very hard to be the conscientious, spiritual, humble, athletic, heroic girl magnet that he was.
I didn’t want to be jealous. He really is a good guy. He grew up to be a surgeon and then he sold the practice and opened up a medical mission in a developing nation.
He was chosen outstanding alumnus at Abilene Christian University, and he was asked to speak at chapel on the first day of the semester. I watched it on YouTube during my break at the grocery store, munching on potato chips. He is still handsome at sixty–like a movie star who has decided to make his hair gray to acknowledge he’s aging but still sexy. He opened with a few words in a foreign language and then spoke of his mission work, challenging the students to go out and make a difference.
I don’t have the nice suit like he wore when he spoke. I traded it for a store apron. I may have an advanced degree but I don’t have the religious pedigree anymore. The sacrifices I’ve made will not be written up in ACU Today and my college will definitely not be inviting me to come back to speak in chapel. In fact, I’m sure I carry the honor of being the least remembered alumnus of Abilene Christian University, having been forgotten even while I attended.
I don’t really know why I’m envious. In earlier years I would have enjoyed being admired in this community that once meant everything to me. But I quit wanting that a long time ago. Now, I’d rather be an atheist and own my own mind than someone who dedicates his work to a delusion like my handsome friend still does.
But I admire the guy. He could have chosen a much easier life but instead focuses on healing people. If he does it because of his religion… well, we can argue the merits of that, maybe. But for whatever reason, he chooses to do good, and that’s admirable.
I choose to do good things too, between and sometimes during shifts at the grocery store. The handful of people whose opinion I care about already think well of me.
Still, I feel a pang of envy every now and then but I can recognize it and make fun of myself over it.