You sit bolt upright, clocking that you set your phone alarm for 6pm instead of 6am. Dawn patrol is no longer an option as it was the sun’s rays that woke you. Cursing yourself, your phone manufacturer, and the universe in equal measure, you stumble downstairs and stub your toe in the process. Now hopping both proverbially and literally, you cannot believe that the day has started this way. Donning your layers of technical fabrics, you note with consternation that your spouse put the wrong beans in the hopper and now you have to make do with pre-programmed coffee from Sumatra instead of the Nicaraguan variety that you were craving this morning. Suitably annoyed, you grab your carbon-fiber skis from their tidy spot in your over-large garage and affix it to the feat of German engineering that you use for transport. Ugh, it looks like the snow-melt system didn’t kick on, so you are forced to further delay your departure while you clear the flakes with your ergonomic shovel. Your life cannot get any worse.
You sit bolt upright, ashamed that you had fallen asleep while you were supposed to be guarding your sister. Breakfast is not likely to be an option as it was the shock of rebel artillery that woke you. It is too dangerous to venture outside of the hovel that you currently call home. Still, you creep slowly to the cellophane window just to see daylight. The crackle of rifle fire makes you jump back and then onto the still-sleeping form of your six-year old charge. At least you have her and all of your limbs. Others are not so fortunate. It has been a day since you last ate, a week since you last bathed, and it is hard to remember the last time you changed the rags that pass for clothing. Your brother’s dead body lays askew two streets over, an interment impossible as his position is caught in a crossfire. You say your prayers, a defiance that you allow yourself even though they are outlawed and have to date been largely unanswered. The line between life and nightmare has never been so fine.
We all have problems. We face them or allow them to dominate us, to distract us. We feel sorry for ourselves, we lament our misfortune. But rarely do we take the time to put our struggles in context. Perspective helps us understand our place in the universe. Buoyed by the knowledge of the incredible strength and power with which humanity is endowed, we can be inspired to overcome difficult obstacles. Sheepish at the pettiness of our complaints, we may be more prone to ignore the tiny setbacks that we deal with daily.
People have not only survived great catastrophes and devastating circumstances in the past, but continue to do so even as you read these words. That they can do so with an entrenched optimism is even more impressive. We are plagued with a pessimism that is totally self-defeating. One small problem begets another and then we jump to the conclusion that the stars are aligned against us. These types of quotidian problems may be temporarily annoying, but they pale in comparison to the horrors with which others are haunted.
Imagine complaining about a Broncos loss or a 4” powder day to a refugee. The shame of such entitlement should be enough to make you appreciate what you have.