Monday, December 2, 2013

First-World Problems


Twelve hours in the car yesterday and now preparing my way back to the workaday world. The re-entry began with a lost school planning book, a sketchy printer, six pounds heavier on the bathroom scale, a refrigerator with condiments only until I get to the store. Each one annoying and eliciting inappropriate small oaths and each worthy of the new mantra my daughter introduced me to: “First-World Problem. Get over it.”

Really, in light of famine, tsunamis, war, openly repressive governments, these all are so small and deserve being put in their proper perspective. Don’t get me wrong— all of the above are possible and can (and do) exist in these so-called First-World countries. And I certainly don’t mean this in any arrogant “I’m so glad I’m an American” kind of way. But truth be told, I live in a prosperous country in a privileged position and become accustomed to things that are supposed to work, that are supposed to be fair, that seem to exist to serve my every need and are deserving of my outrage when they fail to please me. From the bus that’s late to the wireless that cuts out in the middle of sending an e-mail to the Xerox machine that’s broken just before my class. First-World Problems that deserve to be cut down to their trivial size.

My sister called from my Mom’s place and it was another bad day for her 92-year old body and mind. This is an All-World Problem, even as she is being given care in a fine facility paid for by insurance. In this, we are united and in these moments, called upon to enlarge our compassion. For no one escapes from the ravages of time, the capriciousness of health, the disappointments of dreams that never found their feet— and if that’s not enough, the battlescarred fields of love and marriage. We’re all in it up to our necks—might as well slog through it together. And commiserating over broken printers just ain’t enough to … Dang! My wireless cut out!

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