I just finished doing our 2010 taxes and was quite pleasantly surprised at the outcome.  It seems that starting the year in one tax bracket and ending in a lower one is pretty good for your refund.

As I looked at the number at the top of the screen I went from relief, to excitement, to… wait for it… disappointment and frustration.  My first thought was to wonder if I could donate it back to the national deficit.  Then I thought of replenishing our own savings.  The more I got used to the idea of our tax refund, the more ideas I had for its use.  Important ideas.  Things that would make me really happy – a trip with old roommates, a deposit on a safer apartment with thicker walls, finally going home for Christmas this year.  The list goes on.  It’s amazing what I can decide I need to purchase when I have the option to do so.

Call me Patch Adams, but I think the cure for my insatiable desire for more is to stop imagining what a resource can do for me, and start imagining what it can do for someone else.  If our friend Isaac were to receive our tax refund, it could provide him with food, water, medical care, and education for well over five years.  Someone pretty credible once wrote to a group of people similar to myself, “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.”  Wow.

It is so much more demanding to imagine the good I can do for someone else than to imagine the goods I can acquire for myself – likely because one involves research, imagination, and vulnerability, and the other simply a television remote.  But what an amazing picture – embracing love, dependence, and gratitude rather than striving.  Circles rather than triangles.

Lake Victoria in Uganda, where Isaac lives