jealousy, turning saints into the sea
As (some of) you know, I’m currently studying abroad in Costa Rica.
It’s awesome, I love my cohort and host family, I love practicing my Spanish, I love having my own bedroom and sharing meals with my family and living only a ten minute walk away from school.
But recently I’ve become very jealous of my friends’ housing situations. There’s this one girl who gets her own guest house apart from her host family’s and another new friend who lives in a McMansion, a palace apparently plucked straight out of Beverly Hills. All of this in a neighborhood rife with potholes and stray dogs and unattended beehives (looking at you, Matt).
This envy, it’s an interesting phenomenon, really – I was 100% happy in my little home, but after seeing these other students’ situations, I’ve become so much more dissatisfied with my own. Crazy, right?
It kind of reminds me of this one really old story about an agriculturist who has a bunch of crops and who need workers, trabajadores, to come harvest them. So the jefe rises early, and at six in the morning he finds a bunch of guys in town to work his fields all day. He makes an agreement with them to pay them 10 dollars for their help. The man returns home and goes out again at nine, sees a few others hanging about in the marketplace, idle and desempleados. He invites them to work his campo for the day as well and promises them fair payment.
So the man does this a few more times, bringing back new trabajadores each time – once at noon, again at 3, and once more at 5 o’clock. At the end of the work day, all of his empleados find themselves tired (some more exhausted than others) and happy, wiping the sweat from their brows, lining up for payment.
The farmer starts by giving those who he picked up only an hour ago ten dollars. He continues to do this for those he hired at 3 and at noon. As the line shrinks, the workers who have been at it todo el día start getting excited and expectantly anticipate increased wages.
However, when the farmer hands them each their previously agreed-upon dollar amount, they become enraged. ¡Qué ladrón, what a dishonest man! He should have paid us much more than the others, they grumble.
The owner of the farm overhears them, and I love his response to their complaints. He essentially asks them “Did I cheat you? How did I break my deal with you? We agreed upon ten dollars and I paid you ten dollars! You have no right to be jealous of them. Go spend your money and be at peace!”
The story ends before the workers can give their response, but I like to imagine them realizing they were in the wrong on this, that they should’ve been happy for – not jealous of – those other workers.
Jealousy. It brings the noblest, most awesome people to their knees. I long for that day when I’ll be able to see something really good happen to someone else and think not why can’t that happen to me? but something good happened to someone! and break a genuine smile. I love the people who think like that. It’s such an admirable sense of solidarity with the entire human race, knowing that if at any point anything good happens to anyone, we should be glad because it affects us positively as well.
I know that sounds ridiculous. Maybe it should. It’s this radical claim that these old divisions, they’ve just sort of passed away, that there’s no longer these extraneous labels of friend and foe, neighbor or stranger, Jew or Gentile, male or female, “Christian” or Samaritan.
There’s that one line, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, that until all of us are free, none of us are.
I think those words resonate with so many people because they reveal an often unarticulated something that we know deep down to be true:
it’s all connected.
Humanity, God, this planet, we’re all tied together like a (blue-yarn) spiderweb. Sexuality and spirituality, cell phones and social justice, margaritas and mountain ranges, all of it, touched by the same Life and sustained by the same Force. The Chinese and the Costa Ricans and the Palestinians and the Israelis, we track one heartbeat, one shared humanity.
All that to say, I don’t really see the point in being jealous of my fellow man (and woman) any longer. My house, my host family, they’re awesome. Even if others have been given more, I can be more than content with what I have been given. I’m learning that in all aspects of life, continuing to compare myself to other people will only bring pain. For those with bigger houses and better friends and higher IQs and hotter girlfriends, I am learning to genuinely be happy for you. I’m not there yet, but give me time.
To all of my friends here in Costa Rica and back home – honestly – I pray you continue to appreciate the abstract art of human solidarity (rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep). May you find within this journey not only a sense of truly redemptive empathy, but also an intimate act of self-preservation.