Thursday, November 8, 2012

first world problems

this week hasn't been a good one for electronics here at the nellie household. the quote from the heating and air conditioning units alone was enough to make me rethink how important it is to warm my house. then our twelve year old bose idock died and lastly, our poor nordic track treadmill. i kept wanting to scream to them all, "stay away from the light. just stay away from the light!" my attempts to woo my machines away from their imminent departures did nothing to keep them with us. now i am forced to face the world without them and without a budget to replace them. i am not going to lie. i was pretty sad there for a while.

then i was reminded of a conversation i had with a friend this week. he was sharing his accomplishments of the day and shared that he had thoroughly cleaned his refrigerator. he shared the sentiments that i have felt at times, "there was just too much food in there...some of it had to go." we then discussed the hilarity of finding expired salad dressings and moldy cheese tucked into some far reaching corner of our refrigerator. i've been there too. i'm pretty sure most of us have.

another person involved in the conversation stated the often ignored obvious, "this is definitely a first world conversation." those words knocked my attitude over the head with a two-by-four. unlike many people in the united states, i have seen third world problems face to face. i lived in cartagena, colombia for three and a half years. we moved there when i was pregnant with my first born and i had my sweet girl while we were there. while we were definitely living with the upper class, the desperately poor permeate that city and we were able to visit them in their homes and see their incredible need.

you see, of the one million people who live in cartagena, half of them are displaced. they have been forced from their homes at gunpoint from the narco-traffickers who take over the people's homelands for their own drug trafficking benefits. people traveled in masses, usually with only the things they can carry on their backs, to cities around colombia. cartagena is the home to approximately 500,000 of these people. they are generally poorly educated, poorly skilled, indescribably poor and with very little chance to improve their circumstances. the levels of poverty i have seen are beyond what most of us can imagine.

the people in the background are lining up for used clothing.

the line forming to receive used clothes mailed to us from the united states.

being "sized" for the two pieces of clothing she'll receive.

the kids lining up to pick two used toys from the u.s.

smiling outside of a school that was funded by european donations. it was a safe enough location to do our large clothing distributions.

when i lived in colombia, i used to become so upset with privileged people in general. i never understood how they could be so calloused, how they could be so blind to the needs of others. now i am back in the united states. even in the midst of a struggling economy and the death of major appliances, we still safely cocooned in our land of privilege...and i am becoming a part of the complaining masses.

i'm working on changing my perspective. instead of complaining about another clogged toilet, i'm going to be thankful we have one. instead of complaining about the food i have to vacuum off of the floor after each meal, i'm going to remember to be grateful there is food to feed each of my children, multiple times a day, with enough extra not to be missed when it hits the floor. instead of complaining about an appliance that no longer functions, i'm going to remember what a luxury it was to have appliances at all, and how many would be in awe of every facet of my life.

it's november, a month we are reminded to be thankful. perhaps it is time to reevaluate all that we have. we are often thankful for so many lofty things. perhaps we need to remember to be thankful for the basics. today i am going to be thankful for food. my kids aren't hungry. their tummies are full. they are not malnourished. their bodies are not showing the signs of starvation. they have water to drink. their bodies are not diseased from unsanitary living. my love for my children is not agonized by a reality that means i cannot care for them. i am blessed, beyond measure, and this month and every month, i'm going to remember to be thankful.


  1. I totally resonate with this. I have also seen third world poverty, and you think that would be enough to change my perspective for life. But I forget. And need reminders. So I love that you gave one today. Beautiful post!

    1. thanks so much, jodi. i love having a kindred spirit that things so much like i.

  2. Just a quick note about how this touched me also. We life in NJ and have been without power for about 2 weeks (long story it came back after Sandy and then was lost during the snow, so had about 60 hours of power then) and have found myself compaining about the growing laundry and having to do dishes by hand...again first world problems. So thanks for the reminder!

    1. wow. i am so honored that you would write this. we have had everyone affected by sandy in our thoughts and prayers these last few weeks. that you would take the time to write a response in the middle of all that is going on is absolutely humbling. thank you for your kind message and also for reminding us to be thankful.