Recently I have been hearing folks use a new phrase. Well, new to me at any rate. After they complain about some western world annoyance such as having to stand in line or spending too much money at a big box store, they end the complaint with this comment, “first world problem.”
Initially, I whole heartily agreed with them and would even comment that they were so right to acknowledge the trivialness of the complaint. Wow, I would think, these folks are so aware of the sense of entitlement that we, who live in an affluent society, have come to believe are actually hardships in our lives.
But then I started to see folks morph the term by adding a shrug and a, what are you going to do, casualness at the end of this comment like it was an excuse and not a conscious statement of our societies embarrassment of riches.
I realized that in order to become fully aware of the day to day annoyances we experience in modern society, one must not look at these situations as “first world problems” but rather celebrate them as “first world blessings.”
How lucky are we to be able to stand in a line and return something we changed our mind about or found to be defective, and receive a full refund? How amazing is it to have the money to buy what we want in the first place and not just what we need, even if we do spent more than we anticipated? How fortunate to be able to have access to services that make our lives happier and easier, even though we have to wait in a line for our turn. These are blessings not problems.
I’ll always remember, years ago, being in Puerto Vallarta on Dec. 12th, which is our Lady of Guadalupe day and watched as hundreds and hundreds of people lined up and waited patiently to file through the old city church to pay their respects and offer up prayers. And yes, I will freely admit that it was a blessing, first world or other wise, to have had the resources to travel to Puerto Vallarta with my own family. But what amazed me the most, while witnessing this solemn procession, was the young children, some just toddlers, placidly standing with their families as they waited in line in the hot, tropical sun. Never complaining, never crying.
I was struck by the contrast to my own community. How would the children of the families in my city act in such a situation? Would they peacefully wait for several hours as their family made their way along the route, or would the crowd be filled with whining tots and harried parents placating them with promises of treats at the end, if only they would be quiet and still? That is a first world problem.
Or how about the story my dear friend told me from a volunteering trip to Haiti. The doctor who came with her on the trip apologized to an elderly woman for having to wait so long in line to see him. The lady replied that she was thrilled to wait because waiting in that line meant she didn’t have to walk almost 10 kilometres to the next town for medical help, which was her only other choice. Think about that the next time your doctor is running behind.
Have we forgotten how blessed we really are that we look at the small annoyances in our affluent lives as real problems? Even though we excuse them as first world issues, they are still far more appealing then the alternatives.
One might even say that the fact that I am lamenting over this at all, is in fact, a first world problem. And they would be right.
To this I would reply, that I know I am lucky to have the resources and freedom to state my opinion in the first place. That I have the technology needed to produce this blog at my disposal. That I have the education to write it coherently. That I have the leisure time to spend on such a trivial subject, but most of all, that I am grateful for these first world blessings.
Let’s face it folks, in north America and other western societies, even the poorest people have access to far more services and resources than those living in third world countries.
I am not writing this to shame anyone, but to instead remind us all that what we have, and how we live, are in fact, great gifts. How could even the most frustrating of irritations that we have in our daily lives, as those who reside in this first world utopia, be anything more than a small obligation for the blessings we receive each and every day.
Whether you live in a fancy house or in a one room rental and struggle on a fixed income, gratefully count your blessings daily. We still live in a society that offers far more opportunities and resources than the vast majority of the worlds population have available to them.
Those folks would be more than happy to have our first world problems and I guarantee you, they would consider themselves blessed.
19 thoughts on “First World Blessings”
Thank you so much for this. It is so true, I find myself pulling myself up, and reminding myself of all that I have to be so grateful for on occasions; one being the other day when I was queueing to put money in the car parking machine, in the freezing rain.
The lady in front of me had decided to use up all her small coinage, I had gone into town earlier, for work, so that I would have the time to get some essential oils to make up some antibacterial oils for friends and family. As she slowly put coin by coin in the meter, I found myself getting, more enraged.The lady apologised for holding up, a now well formed, queue, behind me, I was not my usual ‘graceful’ self. I just gave her a tight lipped smile. I was ashamed of myself immediately, ashamed of feeling annoyed, ashamed of, unwittingly, judging her.
How lucky was I to be putting car parking money into a meter, in order to be able to go to work! I was cold, standing in the queue, I don’t expect the lady putting her small coinage into the meter was enjoying it either, especially hearing all the sighs and groans from us impatient people behind her. None of us knew her circumstances. Not only that, I reminded myself that whilst I had just got out of a warm car, there were people trying to shelter from the freezing conditions, keeping as warm and dry as best they could, with no homes or warm cars to go to.
I know what it is like to have to dig in the backs of chairs to find enough money to get essentials. In fact, even on that very same day I had carefully worked out exactly to the penny how much I could logistically afford to put in the meter, and have just enough to get the oils I needed to protect family and friends.
So, having been thoroughly ashamed of myself, I immediately apologised to the Universe and thanked It for all my blessings.
Your words resonate so much! I love all your writings, thank you, dear lovely lady. Wishing you and yours a truly happy and healthy 2018. XxX
Thank so much for sharing your story. ❤️ You are absolutely right, we do not know the circumstance that others are going through. I too forget that sometimes when I am not being present and in the moment but rather off in my head somewhere thinking about something that truthfully, I likely won’t even remember a month, a week, a day later.
P. S. I am so very glad you enjoy my blog. Support and appreciation like yours is the fuel that keeps me going. Thank you 😁
I think you hit the nail on the head. I’m from India and we are a country are rapidly growing. We have a huge population and there are things we can’t even imagine. Having been to US, I know that there are privileges that Indians will take time to even see being implemented. Countries and their economies are all in different stages. I think gratefulness is what is needed on either side.
You can never go wrong with a great big dose of gratefulness. ❤️ Thanks Parul for sharing your thoughts.
I agree with you and find it all the more tangible on the festive season x
Yes, of course. That is when the first world inhabitants show their absolute worst side. 😳
Thanks for sharing
An excellent reminder. I was struck by one comment you made about waiting for the doctor. I was miffed one day while waiting for a skin cancer screening. The doctor was 30 minutes behind and I was late for work. Then I heard her on the phone, right outside my exam room telling another patient bad news: the biopsy meant she did have cancer. I couldn’t hear the patient on the phone, but the doctor made some comforting noises and I guessed the patient was crying. In that moment i realized how close to the edge we all are. Being miffed at a long wait time was nothing to a cancer diagnosis.
You’re point on gratitude and how it can move us to see the world through a new lens is well-made. We CAN do things about the experience other people are having. We can approach their experiences with openness and empathy, with patience and compassion. It takes more energy to be sure. But it can be done. Your post is one of my favorites for the day–Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for the kind words. It seems to be how us first worlders operate these days. I call it the fast food mentality. We want everything in 5 minutes or less and at a cheap price! But that’s a story for another day, 😳
Thank you for this reminder about gratitude! Within almost any negative experience, there is a silver lining that we can look for and call attention to. I truly believe that the more we search for (and find) things to be grateful for, the more goodness will come our way!
You are preaching to the choir 😊
I whole heartedly agree. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.
Thank you for including Crone Confidence in your Monday Magic- Inspiring Blogs. 😊 I am honored.
You are so welcome – when I read this yesterday on Sunday Blog share it rang so many bells. I truly learnt the meaning of gratitude as a nurse – first working with head and neck cancer patients, then working as a hospice sister. I cared for so many desperately ill patients and grieving families who never complained – there is always someone worse off than me, no matter how bad thhings might seem. Wonderful post, Claire x
So true. One of my favorite saying is, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
Thanks again. ❤️
Loved this post! Before moving to England, I lived in Italy and before that I lived in South Africa. Each country has their strengths and their weaknesses… their problems and their blessings. Living with an attitude of gratitude is key. We have so much to be grateful for, things really could be so much worse for us!
Well thank you for the kind words. Absolutely, gratitude is the key. I believe that more you are grateful, the more you have to be grateful for.
p.s. thanks for signing up for me blog. I hope you will find more to love in the future.
So true and I think we need to be constantly reminded about how blessed we are because it is easy to forget. Even those who would be considered less fortunate in developed countries have it so much better than those who do not live as we do. Thank you for the reminder!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 😊
Gratitude is such a forgiving energy. One that the western world could use a little more of.