The internet and I have a love/hate thing going on. It got me through junior high, high school, college, job hunting, Sunday lesson planning, worry-wart mothering, hobbies, genealogy, my Pinterest phase… I mean, I am an internet fan! Good, wonderful, informative, uplifting, uniting, blessed things can come from the internet! But the internet is also rich with things that A) I don’t want to know, B) I really don’t need to see, or C) are overwhelmingly useless in their contributions to humankind. (I won’t go into the blatantly hurtful and evil corners of the internet; we’ll save that for other kinds of posts.)
Last week, I read a post on the internet that has been eating away at my stray thoughts. It wasn’t awful. As a matter of fact, at the time it was unnervingly…funny. It took a few minutes for it to turn into one of the aforementioned useless contributions.
I’m talking about #firstworldproblems. It’s a hashtag affixed to posts (twitter, instagram, facebook, etc) talking about any and all annoying things facing the first world masses. Some are pretty clever, I must admit. But after a simple twitter search, it wasn’t long before I was ticked. Who were these ignorant people complaining about their too-short cell phone chargers and un-instant seat warmers!? Didn’t they know there were people with real problems out there!?
So, while I was still good and angry, I did a little research. I started with this video from Water Is Life, which would have brought me to tears if I hadn’t been so disgusted with my fellow suburbanites. Then I remembered a resource I used often in my college micro-economics class: the CIA World Factbook. Go ahead, take a gander. I let my soap-box arsenal build—an easy feat when you look at world stats on access to drinking water, per capita GDP, percentage of children 5 years and younger who are underweight, population percentages below the poverty line, HIV rates, doctors/hospital beds per 1,000 people, child mortality, education levels… I could go on and on.
Next I made a mental list of all of the gut-wrenching things I had seen in my life, including the conditions and life stories of the children and people I met while doing humanitarian work in Moçambique. The news feed on my phone contributed to my disgust as well. There were people out there complaining about the long line at Starbucks and the Oscars outcomes when hundreds of millions of people (Syrians, Sudanese, Afghanis, North Koreans…) live in fear and violence. I was armed and ready for an epic shower debate: you know, the kind that you have with imaginary opponents in your shampoo-frothy head as you practice for the day when you get to prove your point to the world!
Do you see where this is going?
It wasn’t long (I believe my hair was still wet) before I realized my mistake. I hadn’t learned a thing. I was so consumed with disappointment in others that I hadn’t once taken a moment to be grateful for my own blessings. I’d read a twitter post saying “Ugh, my Lego Indiana Jones sticker came in the mail today, but it’s too cold outside to put it on my car. #firstworldproblems” and immediately think of how insensitive and ignorant this person was of the countless shivering children with not enough shelter, blankets, or fuel to keep them warm; or those who walk miles and miles without transportation; or the overwhelming numbers of families who don’t have enough money to eat let alone buy a sticker. I was so busy with my shame on you’s, that I missed a great many opportunities to be thankful. I had brought judgment into my heart instead of gratitude and awareness. Shame on me.
I sat down. I prayed. I pondered. Then I did another twitter search—this time, however, I had a new perspective. These very same posts had gone from unnervingly funny, to useless contributions to humankind, to sources of gratitude and inspirations for service.
I have a healthy body, a clear and working mind, an incredible husband and two beautiful kids, a graduate education, a home to live in, healthy food to eat, a working car and the ability to pay a mechanic when it’s not. Because my daily struggles do not include worrying about where to get food for my children or whether or not violence will be a part of my day, I am in a position to help.
I can donate time, money, effort, and prayers. I can see #firstworldproblems and take the time to learn from it, ponder it, and be aware of the struggles of others—and if possible, I can do something about it.