By Jeanne Reynolds
Don’t you hate when people whine and moan about their lot in life, with apparently no perspective on what the rest of the world is dealing with and what’s really important?
I do, too. Even when — maybe especially when — it’s me doing the whining and moaning.
I just finished sending a long email to several family members with all the details about travel and accommodations for an upcoming reunion at the beach. As in North Myrtle Beach. And even as I explained all the wrinkles and complications that have come up because of Sister Florence, I knew there are tens of thousands of my fellow Carolinians (South and North) dealing with far, far worse problems post-storm. Instead of focusing on how inconvenient — and in one case, impossible — it’s going to be to get everyone where they’re supposed to be, when they’re supposed to be there, I should be turning my thoughts and prayers on those folks whose homes and hopes have been washed away. I mean, I’m talking about a vacation trip, for goodness sake.
Here’s another example: As I write this, I’m sitting high and dry in my lovely marsh-front home near Beaufort (which thankfully was spared a full-frontal assault this time). Two good friends have just left after we enjoyed four great days together playing in a golf tournament. I followed a good round yesterday with an incredibly miserable one today and lost a match I could easily have won, which has left me well down in the dumps. And I have to seriously scold myself to remember how blessed I am to even be in this situation, in such a beautiful place, NOT dealing with storm damage and with the physical ability, financial resources and job flexibility to do this in the first place.
In fact, most of my so-called troubles in life are what you’d call First World problems. People in Third World countries struggle to get enough to eat and clean water to drink. Meanwhile I worry if my pants are getting too tight (too much to eat) and gnash my teeth over a malfunctioning irrigation system (plenty of water to spare). I have a mountain of laundry to do (well, really just a pretty small hillock) — while I sit in the air conditioning and push a few buttons so a machine can do all the work. I’m rehabbing a hip injury that’s kept me from running for the past month (if you’re a runner, you know this is BIG) — but I have health insurance plus a healthy enough bank account to get the treatment I need. And so far, my pants do still fit.
I know I’m not alone in this. Many (maybe even most?) of us do dwell on our own problems to the exclusion of others around us. It’s easy to lose perspective and forget these are gnats, not elephants, in my life.
I don’t know what the answer is, but one thing that couldn’t hurt is doing more volunteer work and making more donations to organizations trying to help some of those without enough to eat or drink, or whose homes are gone. I have to change my focus to change my perspective.
I’ll still have problems, First World or otherwise. But maybe, just maybe, they won’t matter quite as much.