Sometimes we get worked up over the little things. Like being late for work. Or having way too much homework to do. Or having to do yark work (god I hate yard work). Or not being able to hang out with friends as much as we’d like to. Or our outfit not looking good. Or needing to lose a pound cause it’s bathing suit season. Or our damn Netflix not working.
And next thing we know we’re punching a hole in the wall, Andy Bernard-style, pre-anger management classes:
All because the dog pooped on the carpet, or something of the likes.
I’ve certainly fallen victim to it. I didn’t punch a hole in the wall. But I did once kick a hole in the door. True story. Not my proudest moment. But even if you haven’t gone on a destructive streak, I can bet you’ve gotten into a tiff over something that didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
But then certain events happen that put it all back into perspective for us. For example, the recent tornado that wreaked havoc in Joplin, Missouri. The following NPR article describes the aftermath of the tornado. Even if you don’t read the article, at least look at the pictures. They are jaw-dropping. House-to-House Search for Joplin Tordano Survivors
The first thing I think when I read about the devastation and look at the photos is, how do these people possibly cope? I couldn’t imagine my house being completely demolished to pieces, losing most or all of my belongings, losing loved ones or not knowing whether they are dead or alive, not having food to eat, not being able to wash my clothes, not having readily accessible health care if I need it, not having a place to go to buy basic supplies, fearing that another tornado could strike and not knowing when or how everything will be okay.
It’s a lot to handle. And then when we really think about it, we feel selfish and embarrassed that we gave little Rover so much grief about pooping on the carpet. In retrospect, it wasn’t that big of a deal. This is not to say that we all don’t have real, legitimate problems. Because we do. But it’s important to remember that there are people out there who are suffering more than you. If we manage to untangle ourselves from our web of troubles and put things into perspective for a moment, then our problems seem to shrink a bit. In my opinion, it’s a healthy and constructive way to de-stress.
I say constructive because the more we think about those who have it worse than we do, the more we will be inclined to help them – through donations or volunteering or emotional support. This benefits the recipients, obviously. But it helps you too, more than you may think. And I’m not talking about that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you’ve done something that you think makes you a better human being. Volunteering and charity gives you a sense of interconnectedness and purpose. Especially in the case of volunteering, you come into contact with people that you wouldn’t have met otherwise, and you see how your contributions directly effect them. It’s a good feeling that lasts as long as you can remember the smile of the person whom you helped.
So the next time you’re stuck in endless traffic, or you have a dentist appointment with that dentist you are convinced hates you, remember that it could be much, much worse. And even if it’s for only a moment, feel grateful that it’s not.