Time - personIt was a bad day! It started with an unnecessarily long conference call which meant I had to scurry to make my eye doctor appointment. This meant I didn’t have time to recheck my directions, made some wrong turns, and was 16 minutes late. The office informed me that they didn’t honor appointments later than 15 minutes. I would have to come back another day. Since I was already out I decided to use the time to pick up some supplies at a nearby fabric store. When I got to the store, a sign said they had moved – not close. I decided to give up and return home. On the way I got stuck in a traffic jam. I felt pretty grumpy, but I did have time while sitting in the traffic jam to think – or maybe it was prayer. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. My reflections led me to the concept: “These are First World problems”

While I write this I’m nearing the end of a visit to our daughter who lives in Kenya. It’s a beautiful and corrupt country. Most people would consider it Second or Third World. Although my time here has been pleasant enough (partially because I am white, have enough money to travel, and a daughter to provide necessities) I see the poverty around me. Roads are in terrible disrepair. Numerous people are selling trinkets along the roadsides or begging. Those who can afford it have drivers, maids, and security guards. These are considered good jobs because they are jobs. I watch people doing backbreaking work to serve the pleasure of those who have more wealth. Wait, this isn’t all that different than many places in the USA!

Either way, I’m reminded of the burdens that other people carry – most are much bigger than being stuck in traffic or having to reschedule an eye appointment. Being mindful of these realities reduces my stress and helps put life in perspective.

A few times in my life I have faced serious problems – sickness, job loss, emotional distress – but mostly my problems pale when compared to people who are really suffering in my world or any world.

What have I learned?

  1. Be mindful. It will probably lead to gratitude.
  2. Stay close enough to those who have less, to be reminded of my privilege.
  3. Do something to respond to the needs of those who suffer. This might be by donations of time or money, or through political action.

How do you cope?