This I Believe

Lansana - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Entered on June 26, 2007

It’s said that another man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I’m convinced that another man’s plight can be another man’s reassurement. The next time you have the urge to complain about some inconveniences in your life, turn on the news. Better yet, go to any website that covers world issues to get a better idea of what I mean. On www.bbc.com, you can click on the name of a third world or developing nation and I’m sure you’ll see a headline that describes exactly what I’m talking about. Although the underlying reasons that people I know personally complain about vary, they most likely pale in comparison to a lot of what you’ll see.

I recently read several stories on the BBC website about Africans in search of better lives by taking perilous voyages across the Atlantic to Europe’s southern shorelines. Some make it. Most don’t! They don’t as a result of drowning after the overly crowded fishing boat they’ve been crammed onto capsizes. Others are depleted of their savings before they even leave African soil by traffickers eagerly waiting to sell them dreams. However, for those that make it to European soil, not all of them have actually made it. They’re eventually sent back to their country after being rounded up by the coastguards.

What do other people’s circumstances have to do with me? They have nothing to do with me directly, but they do impact me indirectly? I admit I have complained because I don’t have some things that I want despite having basically everything I need to sustain a normal life. I tend to forget that there are plenty of people that would risk their lives to have a fraction of what I already have. I will try to remember that Zimbabwe has an unemployment rate of around 80% and inflation rate of about 2,200% the next time I let some ungrateful client call in and ruin my day at work. At least I have a job.

I once saw pictures of children in Northern Uganda that are referred to as “Night Commuters.” They come from villages to town centers in the cities seeking safety in shelters established by aid agencies. What captivated me was a caption describing how kids would sleep underneath trucks or business verandas to get an early start for school. In college I’d complain about having to walk across campus to a class I didn’t want to go to.

I don’t go searching for stories about people suffering. But, I do complain about things that weren’t worth complaining about in the first place. Ultimately, complaining is a right. If you’re in what appears to be a dire calamity with no resolution in sight, by all means complain. Just remember, someone else may be in a much worse situation. However, if things are not going according to how you want them to be, I believe you have no right to complain. Someone else may very well be satisfied to be in your position.