Saturday, June 21, 2014

Of course it's a first world problem!

In 2007, my husband I spent a month in Nigeria with three friends.

We worked in a Christian HIV center.

We saw people dying -- literally wasting away as we watched. We saw bodies of those who had just died. I watched a man faint in front of me and die as my husband and one of our friends tried to help. We saw children starving. We saw a man who had just blown his hand off in an explosion unable to get medical care because he didn't have money. We watched people turned away from surgery because the hospital couldn't come to an agreement on a $10 post-surgery exam. None of the people we fellowshipped with had running water or more than occasional electricity. JB diagnosed a woman with blood pressure so high, he thought she might die on the spot. I sat next to a little boy dying liver disease. His mother asked us to help. Our friend Ajit explained to me that without a transplant (which was impossible) he would die. There was nothing we could do then. I saw people who lived in sheer squalor. I saw people eternally grateful because I gave them one Tylenol. I repeatedly met people diagnosed with HIV. Children dying from a disease they didn't ask for. Women dealing with infertility who had no means of improving their chances. Wives of cheating husbands condemned to live with HIV. Widows. Orphans. You name it. We saw it.

(The woman in the picture top right above is making lunch at a local orphanage where dozens of teenage boys live without parents. The picture at right is a young mother holding vigil at her sick baby's bedside. And the man below is facing complications of HIV.)

I returned to America completely changed. I remain changed to this day. While I can sometimes forget what I saw, I am quickly reminded of the wonders of my own life. I will always remember the challenges I witnessed in Nigeria. It will always impact my perspective.

I am greatly aware that every single problem I have is a FIRST WORLD PROBLEM.

But that does NOT mean it is NOT a problem.

I write this post because I am so incredibly sick of every first world person I meet prefacing any complaint that they make with, "I know this is totally a first world problem."

They preface it that way because so many well-meaning people remind them, continually, how much worse it could be.

Of course it could be worse.

It can always be worse.

Unless you find the person who has had it the absolute worst in the whole, wide world, then it can be worse.

Even for those people in Nigeria. Amidst rampant HIV and poverty and death and squalor, I would overhear conversations about a lost cell phone, a broken engagement, a gossiping friend, an overly nosey neighbor.

You know ... normal stuff.

Every person is entitled to grieve their frustrations and sadness and pain. Obviously, we do not want to be bitter. We do not want to forget the blessings in our life. But we are also entitled to moan because we burned dinner. We are allowed to groan because our favorite pair of shoes broke.

I do not believe we need to preface our problems with, "I know this is such a first world problem to be complaining about."

Of course it is.

We live in the first world!

And let me tell you that people who live in the third world, still complain over first world things. They get frustrated by small things that really don't mean much in the grand scheme.

I write this post not for the person doing the complaining but for the person on the receiving end of the complaint. Do NOT tell the complainer, "Well, it could be worse." Do not make them feel badly about sharing a difficult part of their day.

Instead, pray with them. Love them. Hug them. Of course we should all remember how good we have it. Of course they could have it worse.

But we can also remember to show love, compassion, and encouragement to everyone -- no matter what world they live in.


1 comment:

The Queen of Brussels Sprouts said...

You probably see this a lot too...hubby treats a lot of patients that are "wounded warriors". It always makes me sad. Yes, I'm still recovering 2 years later from massive strokes, but I'm recovering...that is the key. I may not even be able to reach my arm behind my head....but I still have an arm. All that to say, "amen sister!"