Your story brings to mind a letter from C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves. In that 1917 letter, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Nobody who gets enough food and clothing in a world where most are hungry and cold has any business to talk about ‘misery.’” Consider for a few moments the positive impact that would result if everyone on the face of this planet applied just a single month’s Internet bill to the poor, homeless and hungry who we too often try to pretend just aren’t there.
This was a comment in a recent post by Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist which you can read here. Joshua’s account of poverty in San Salvador, El Salvador moved me. After describing the disturbing scene in one woman’s impoverished home, he called people to consider how they could live minimally to help eradicate poverty.
The comment caught my attention because I am a big fan of C. S. Lewis and because I have thought a lot lately on so-called “first world problems.” First world problems are things like being hungry but not wanting to cook or go to the store, having a dying laptop battery but not wanting to get off the couch to plug it in, and it being a little too hot or too cold for our preferences. They all boil down to matters of convenience.
In the first world we have so much that it is easy to forget what real struggles are. Most of the people I know probably can’t remember the last time they were genuinely hungry. If we go more than a few hours past when we want to eat we get grumpy. Imagine a life where food is a maybe not a given, where you might not have any good prospects for food outside of someone’s unexpected generosity. It’s a frighteningly common condition throughout the world.
In comparison, I get upset when my Facebook page won’t update properly or Grooveshark won’t load the songs I want to hear. I don’t like having to go out of my way to the grocery store, even though it’s only a 10 minute drive from the grocery to my home. Did I mention it’s a drive!? I don’t even have to walk. Then I can park just outside the apartment and walk it into some climate controlled space with a refrigerator to keep my food cool. The further I follow this line of thought, the more ridiculous it is to me to complain about anything in my life.
I’m asking all of you to join me in a campaign against poverty and first world complaining at the same time.
Find a container in your house and repurpose it. You might be familiar with the idea of a swear jar. Every time you swear you put some money into the jar so that doing the thing you are trying to quit doing actually has consequences. A lot of times that money will go towards a reward for the person working towards their personal growth goal.
In this case, I want you to have an anti-complaining jar. Every time you voice (or think) a first world complaint, you put x amount of money into a jar. On a monthly basis, give the money in the jar to a charity that is working to end poverty. We can work together to make the world a better place for those who are truly in need, and we can grow personally by ending our complaining habits.
I would love for you to join me as I work to kill my habit of whining about things that I have no business complaining about and helping those who are less fortunate for no other reason than where they were born. Maybe Gene was on to something in the comment above when he encouraged people to give one internet bill to poverty. Please consider how you can give out of your plenty to help those who literally have nothing.
(Thanks for reading! I am in the early planning stages of a broader anti complaining campaign that I would love for you to join. I can’t change the world by myself, but with your help anything is possible. Keep an eye out for future messages and a new experiment on the horizon.)
Photo by: Shared Interest.