Tuesday, August 19, 2014

First World Problems

I've been thinking a lot lately about the things that are wrong and the things that are right in my life.  There are times when I get frustrated.  There are times when I get angry.  There are times when I think that I'm never going to achieve my goals.

Despite those moments, though, if I step back and take a really good, hard look at my life, the majority of my issues are "First World Problems".  Normally I hate that phrase.  It sounds so condescending, implying that people who are dealing with the issues of a non-Third World country are lesser beings because their problems are of less import.  To me it is important to remember that each person's problems are important to them.  You may think my problems aren't worthy of worry, or even ridiculous, but to ME they mean the world.

All in all, though, I have a pretty good life.  I have a beautiful home.  My husband is loving and supportive. We are owned by three beautiful, adorable, demanding kitties who sleep plastered to my side every night (except when they're busy waking me up at 3 a.m. to get pets).

We stumble through life, doing the best we can with what we have, and trying to achieve everything that we can possibly achieve.  We all think of ourselves as that special snowflake...just like everyone else.  And we all do have things that make us special and unique, but we can't all win at our dreams.  Not everyone can be an All-Star pitcher or a Broadway star.  Not everyone can have a biography written about them.  Yes, we each have our moments of amazing, and it is quite possible that we all should have a biography written about us because those moments are what connect us to the rest of humanity.  We fight, we live, we love, we die.  Our hearts burn to leave something behind us, something wonderful and to know that we'll be remembered.  Maybe we won't be remembered forever, but we all hope that we'll be remembered for a while after we're gone.

The thing is, maybe we need to focus a little more on the here and now.  The future will be there, and our dreams will change and morph to fit our lives as we go through them, but today is full of opportunities that we look past in our rush to get to the future.  There are roses we haven't admired, there are sunsets we haven't watched, there are people we haven't touched who could use those moments of kindness to help light their days.  We can be the candle in the darkness.  We don't have to be a spotlight that turns night into day for the whole world, there are so few opportunities to create that kind of massive change, but how often do we miss the chances to brighten someone else's darkness?

I've been thinking of things that I can do.  There's a homeless man who camps under an overpass near work. I want to do something, but have been afraid until now.  I think, though, that I've come up with some options.  I don't say this for accolades or pats on the back, but to share some thoughts on how you might make someone's life better for a moment, for a day, forever...

  • This is Texas.  It gets hot in the summer.  We take having clean drinking water for granted when we're sitting in our living rooms or at our desks at work.  But everyone doesn't have the option to get up and go to the sink for a drink of water.  Go to the store, buy a few gallons of drinking water and drop them off when you see someone who needs them.
  • Do you have a bunch of extra pillows around the house?  I know we do.  They're not horrible, but they're past their prime.  I'm thinking that they will go in the back of my vehicle so that I can offer them to folks who may need them, along with any extra blankets that we don't really use.
  • There are survivalist / prepper sites that sell things like solar ovens and solar stoves.  Or camp stoves with safe fuel bricks.  These things could make the difference in terms of someone getting a hot meal.  Combine them with a case of canned goods and a decent quality manual can-opener, and you could be giving someone a month's fewer hunger pangs.
  • Sometimes we can't carry bulky things around, but if you have some extra cash, buy a gift card to a local fast food place.  Keep a supply of $20 or $25 gift cards around that you can hand folks when they ask for help.  Is fast food the best thing in the world?  No...but it is better than being hungry, and there are relatively healthy options available if they want to get them.
  • Donations to the local food bank or homeless shelter are always a good option too.

There are things you can do that help people have a brighter day that are smaller, but shine just as much light.

  • A friend gave me this idea today:  Write out a bunch of thank you cards for the people who touch your life even in the smallest ways.  Give one to the bank teller who takes your deposit, to the fast food worker who gets your happy meal for you, or to the attendant at the gas station who takes your money for the cup of coffee and doughnut in the morning.  
  • Buy the coffee of the person behind you in line.
  • Let the person with only a couple of items go ahead of you at the grocery store.
  • Send a card to a friend that you don't get to talk to as much as you'd like.

Let's be nicer to each other.  Let's be nicer to strangers as well as friends.  Let's become the candle that lights someone's darkness.  Just one candle, that's all the world needs, because if I'm a candle and you're a candle and everyone else is a candle, eventually all of those candles add up and the world is glowing with light.  And in that light, our First World Problems will fade from view for a little while.

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