Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Blessed to Worry, Grateful to Know

If you've asked me about my life lately, I might have any number of joys and complaints to share.

On the complaints front, there's the ever-ongoing job hunt (3.5 weeks to unemployment as my Google temp contract dwindles and the dark circles under my eyes grow in tandem with the calendar date), the stifling temperatures of my AC-less apartment on warmer CA nights, the yapping seagulls and elephant birds that wake me up before the sun every.single.morning., the pulled groin that has ailed me for 3+ weeks....and so on.

I never want to be the type of person who belittles "first-world problems" with anecdotes about sex trafficking in Cambodia and starving children in Ethiopia. Or starving children and sex trafficking in my own city, also. Problems are problems and troubles are troubles, in whatever sphere and scope you experience them.

But, I always appreciate a solid reminder to keep my problems in perspective.

This is probably why I've frequently been accused of reading "depressing literature."

I like the stuff that really tears my heart open and turns my stomach over. I want to read about prison camps during WWII, human trafficking and female genital mutilation happening right now in our modern world, kids in my own area who don't have anything to eat besides the free lunch they get at school. I want to know the real stuff. I want to keep my whining in check. I'm not really into the "pretend it isn't happening" pattern of thought, because it doesn't ultimately make me feel better. So I guess, allowing myself to feel the worst stuff opens me up to feeling better, in the long run, because it lessens my own worry and displaces my personal concern into a more widespread compassion.

I won't pretend to understand the entirety of the conflict happening overseas right now.

I could read all day and still not know which side is right or wrong or what-have-you. It's not my culture, not my conflict, not my history -- so I doubt I can understand it all, identify the right side or draw the correct conclusions, no matter how many articles I read online.

And truthfully, part of me suspects there is no correct conclusion or right side when it comes to wars like these. Because no matter how you slice it, lives are being lost and innocent civilians are bearing the burdens of things they have little control over.

I loved this article I read this morning: Eight Days in Gaza: A Wartime Diary

I don't even know where to start with explaining which parts of it affected me the most. I think what I like best, overall, is how well it humanizes and personalizes what too easily feels like a foreign issue with nameless/faceless people. These are just parents with kids who want to play with their iPads....people in relationships....holidays about to be celebrated....grandmothers obsessively watering houseplants...........who all periodically go without electricity, and sleep in stairwells or local shelters, waking up every day to news about neighbors and family members whose lives and bodies have been bombed to shreds.

It's one of those articles that appropriately turns my stomach over and puts my own life into perspective again. Reading it doesn't make my problems go away -- I still have to find a job, I still have to pay rent, I still have to figure out why in the hell I got a letter from Arizona this week about a traffic ticket when I haven't lived there in more than a year, I still worry about running 14 miles at a Ragnar Relay in a month when I can't seem to kick this stupid pulled groin. I still have to deal with my "first world problems."

But it is a good reminder that I am blessed to worry about things besides the high odds that my family won't be alive in the morning, or that my street will be bombed to oblivion overnight.

And it makes me really, really wish there was something I could do to help. Because foreign compassion always seems to run into a wall at some point, where I'm not sure how to fix anything or make a difference. So yeah, I guess it might be easier to stay unaware rather than become informed only to stew over my ultimate helplessness.

But I'd rather know it than not know it. I'd rather have a heavy heart for people I don't know, and probably can't help, than live flippantly with ignorant blinders on.

I guess I like to think that when I see those people on the other side someday, that even if they understand that I couldn't do much to help, that they'll still be grateful that I at least cared to know their stories.

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