Traffic jams, poor service, unexpected bills, rejection, an aloof neighbor, a bad hair day — whatever sends you sulking over to the woe is me corner. It’s all too easy to get caught up in our own drama, unraveling scrolls of examples to depict how the world is out to get us.
Then, something happens to detract your attention, morphing all those issues into utter trivia…
And so it was, I found myself in a crèche (orphanage for AIDS babies) in the Alexandra Township of Johannesburg, South Africa. The dwelling was no larger than two-hundred square feet. The floor lined with what looked like miniature blue yoga mats. These mats were not for fancy contortions, however, but rather beds where the children slept elbow-to-elbow. My heart pounded. I blinked. I swallowed.
We’d arrived early in the morning and the little ones were still sleeping, but when our guide introduced his “friends from America,” they rose, racing over to greet us. Throwing their arms around my knees — or wherever they could grab on — they hugged me as if I were someone special.
My day had begun with a malfunctioning alarm clock that sent my jet-lagged body scrambling, with no time for a shower, breakfast, or caffeine. Now, as I stood there with these precious little arms clinging to me, I felt uncontrollable emotion building. My so-called “problems of the day” — or any day for that matter — evaporated. I would never know true suffering. Gigantic eyes gazed curiously up at me, and I didn’t want them wondering why the silly American lady was sad. I promptly clamped teeth over my lower lip until I tasted blood and lowered myself to the floor so I could properly visit.
When the temptation arises to whine about life’s injustices, I try to recapture how I felt in that moment. Pity parties can attract a slew of fellow revelers and even be therapeutic on occasion, but in the end they are “parties” in comparison to the true hardships of the world.