“He didn’t call me back.” – “My internet is so slow!” – “My battery is dead.” – “They didn’t have the flavour I wanted.”
Its ridiculous how often we complain about the mediocre things, in particular if you compare them with the plight of those around you. But it seems its very rare, and difficult to put yourself in someone else’s shoes… and actually keep them there.
An empathetic human being (ie most of us at some point or another) obviously understands that in relation to others, problems of the first world are not really all that bad. “If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience.” said Robert Fulghum.
But its hard (to say the least) to stay in that mindframe.
Last year a friend and I spent a month in a remote village in Tanzania. We didn’t have running water. We didn’t have airconditioning. We slept in stuffy rooms, under mosquito nets and slathered in repellent. We showered using buckets. The same buckets we flushed the toilets with.
But we had toilets. And we had buckets and mosquito nets and a room and repellent. And for that we were grateful.
Not at first, of course. Upon arriving we looked at each other and shook our heads ‘I can’t do this’ we said. But we were wrong. Supremely appreciative we promised ourselves that we’d never forget the people we had met or the lessons we had learned. Namely, perhaps, that we are lucky.
But we did. Too quickly the joy at having a shower changed to annoyance that the water was too hot. Too quickly the things we had learnt to appreciate, simply became taken forgranted again.
As human beings, we adapt. We can survive, but we can also forget.
Reading ‘How They Killed My Father’ – a tale about the suffering many, many had to go through in Cambodia reminds me of how blessed and how lucky we are, and how we so often take it forgranted.
And regardless of the fact that I always try remind myself of how lucky I am; I can always try harder. “Good intentions are all too often a camouflage for inaction.”
Regardless of the day to day annoyances and first world pains, we are far, far luckier than most. And although its sad that in order to appreciate what we have we have to look at those who have less than us, and that in order to be grateful we have to consciously remind ourselves of all the reasons why we should be – that is human nature.
And, the effort is worthwhile. After all, “happy people are grateful people.”
Check out @firstworldpains on Twitter. Just keep in mind that you are one of the lucky few in the world fortunate enough to have access to their complaints.