Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Mentors - Bennie Harris



Opportunity versus Entitlement

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

The Declaration of Independence
July 4, 1776

More and more I'm learning to appreciate the political season, as frustrating as it is, for the subtle and not so subtle nuances that surface. However, I'm under no illusion that anything of significance by either political party will be done to address that which surfaces.

A common theme that's prevalent is the subtle and at times not so subtle sense of entitlement. It seems as though there is a sense of entitlement sweeping the country backed by some that may see it as a way to dominate the current conversation.

This does indeed make for interesting conversation depending on the values and worldview that each individual holds.

Over the last two days I've had the most wonderfully, refreshing conversation with a local business person that immigrated to the United States from Cambodia in 1980.

At times it seems like those of us privileged enough to have been born in this country, take its freedoms and opportunities for granted. Well, my conversation with this gentleman was a wonderful reminder of all that's good about the United States of America, regardless of the current vitriol expressed in the media.

My friend was living a fairly normal life in Cambodia after having returned from studying in the Philippine Islands. He was married and working to support himself, his wife and his extended family in 1975 when Phnom Penh fell to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. He then found himself, his wife, his family and his in-laws pushed out of the city and into the rural countryside. There they were given a tiny hut to live in and share with five other families. They lived like this for three and half years until Vietnam invaded Cambodia and seized control in November of 1978.

In early 1979 my friend found himself, his pregnant wife and a few remaining family members on the move through trying to get to a refugee camp on the Thailand and Cambodian border. It was during this time, while traveling that his daughter was born.

Now, as challenging as our lives may have become up to this point in time, have any of us found ourselves on the run through any dense, rural countryside, seeking freedom, needing to pause because our wife is in labor? Well, not only does my friend get to his first refugee camp after being required to purchase their freedom with a small amount of gold paid to the border guards, he then gets sent back to Cambodia two months later. Finally, he's able to escape a second time with his family to a second camp on bicycles through countryside he'd become familiar with.

After a short period of time in the second refugee camp known as Khao-I-Dang, my friend and his family were approved for immigration to Switzerland. But, the next day when the list was posted for those accepted into the United States, he found himself and his family on it and they arrived here in 1980. He left Khao-I-Dang with his wife, his one year-old daughter, two brother-in-laws, one brother and one friend. The rest of his family, mother, father, grand-parents, two sisters and two brothers all died of starvation under the Khmer Rouge.

Since arriving in 1980, this gentleman and his family received limited government assistance to get them started and he's been thriving since. He held a job for the first few years after his arrival and along with his wife and daughter, lived in a modest home with multiple families, pooling their resources until they could afford to do better. They purchased their first business in 1985 and have gone on to own and operate five different businesses to date. He also shared with me that during this time, his wife worked at home, sewing shirts by hand, sometimes all night to earn fifty cents per shirt that they would then save.

These are the kind of success stories that we NEVER hear about during the political season. We only hear about how hard it is in America, how unfair it is and how those that have more have to do more to help those that don't have or won't do for themselves.

When I asked my friend why he chose the United States as opposed to Switzerland, he told me that it was because he spoke a little English and that he didn't fear getting sent back to Cambodia.

Well, I count it a joy to frequent this gentleman's business to support him and his wife. Here's someone who surely should have been entitled to everything a government could have possibly offered because of the hardships that he and his family endured, but he's really asked for nothing and has given much in return to the country that granted him an opportunity that many of us take for granted. That's the opportunity to succeed by doing more, thus becoming more and having more. And, in return, having more to share. Now, his success hasn't ended yet, I've seen him on one of the popular late night talk shows on more than one occasion, he's sat on the front row, floor level at the Los Angeles Laker's games on more than one occasion and is known by name by more than a few well known celebrities, locally.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, YES!!! My friend and his wife are indeed shining examples of these "unalienable Rights" in action.

All too often, especially during the political season, those of us privileged enough to have freedom and opportunity as our "unalienable Rights", seem to languish and wallow in self-pity, not realizing the abundance of the Universe that we call home.

In "A New Design for Living" by Ernest Holmes and Willis Kinnear, there's an excellent piece on "The Abundant Universe" and "There is More Than Enough." I've included it below.

To your opportunity!


Bennie Harris
25 September 2012


The Abundant Universe
Ernest Holmes

It is human nature to desire an abundance of all things. We desire a lot of happiness and joy. We like to be surrounded by beauty and friends. We want to have our needs supplied, and the luxuries too. We want to love and be loved. We like to experience success and health. In other words, we want to have a richer experience of all the good that life has to offer.

The question that presents itself to us is whether or not there is in the nature of the Universe anything that prescribes that we shall be able to experience just so much abundance. Or whether, if we possess abundance in some respects, are we depriving ourselves of abundance in others?

As we look about us we encounter no evidence that nature in any way is other than abundant: the grains of sand on the beaches, the countless stars in the heavens, the blades of grass, the leaves of the trees, the myriad forms of life, all are signs that point to a limitless creativity and productivity.

All that exists is the tangible world flows from the invisible world of Spirit. Nothing can limit God, and God does not limit Himself. So, when we speak of abundance are we not speaking of the abundance that the Infinite encompasses and is? It is all there. As much as we can conceive of cannot even begin to include the whole, but the amount we can conceive of is what we will have.

There Is More than Enough

We need to expand our thinking of what abundance means to us. As a first step let us learn a lesson from the scientists. They discover and use the laws of nature. They are not afraid that these laws will ever wear out or become depleted. They use them with perfect confidence that they are available for limitless use. In much the same way we may add two and two and get the sum of four. It doesn't matter how seldom or how frequently we add two and two, the result will always be the same. There is nothing that determines that we may use the laws of addition so much and no more.

Too often we seem to have the feeling that Life is of just a certain size, that it can only mean so much to us. That just a certain amount of It is measured out for us to experience: if we have abundant success there is not enough abundance left for us to have health; if we love our immediate family there is not enough love left to have a sense of love for all our fellow men; if we have two friends that is all the friendship we can express; we can get along with some people but not all people; we can be happy and joyous for only an hour or two a day.

The laws of nature are limitless, whether they be mental or physical. But, just as we have limited ourselves in the use of physical law in the past by ignorance of its nature and the way to use it, so, are we not limiting ourselves in the conscious use of spiritual law?

We have to realize that law is always available, always ready for our constructive use. And that what determines the degree to which we use the law is the nature of our own thought –the directive factor, the pattern through which Life flows, the mold in which Life becomes manifest. We have to carefully watch what thoughts we hold up to the mirror of Life that will be reflected back to us in our experience. Is our pattern of thought one of abundance or limitation?

Excerpted from; "A New Design for Living" by Ernest Holmes and Willis Kinnear, 1959




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