Last week I was at the grocery store. The person who was checking me out was not at all interested in helping me in anyway.
She hurried through the order and watched as I packed the bags. When she was finished scanning the items she stood there looking impatient as I tried to keep up.
Near the end, she began helping the next person before I was finished packing. As a result the next person’s groceries were now becoming mixed with mine.
Normally I might say something, but I was feeling docile that day and decided to simply finish the job and go home.
As I made my way out of the store I thought how petty it was of me that this exchange made me annoyed.
I appreciated that at that moment, very likely within that same shopping complex there were people with many more serious problems than an uncaring, disinterested grocery checker.
Some were no doubt dealing with a bad diagnosis. Others may have been struggling with serious family or marital issues and others, right there in the same store may have been wondering how they were going to pay their essential bills.
Then I thought again. The point of view that says, “ your lucky, your problems are small” always disturbs me. It bothers me because it dismisses the “ small issues of life” and it is in dealing with the small issues that we will truly make a difference.
There are so many horrible things that happen to people in life that we are completely powerless to address, solve or manage. There are so many terrible things that are utterly out of our reach.
The person facing a terrible disease, difficult treatment and maybe a painful death, the natural weather disaster, or the catastrophic accident that really seems beyond our ability to avoid are all things that we have to deal with that cause great pain and suffering everyday.
We are powerless to do much if anything with these areas of huge human suffering. In the end all we can do here is respond once the tragedy has taken place.
But the little things, the “ small problems” are avoidable, and manageable by just paying attention, making an effort and caring enough to do it differently.
We may not be able to stop the hurricane, the tsunami or the forest fire. We may not be able to prevent the airplane accident that seems to be a random act of bad luck or avoid many cancers, but we can absolutely do something about almost everything else.
Imagine if the only problems that we had to deal with were the ones that we could not control?
Imagine if every other issue that humans face where there is an opportunity to act differently were cared about in a new way. Surely the whole picture would be completely different.
We could be kinder to each other.
We could care a lot more.
We could be less selfish and entitled.
We could easily feed the starving.
We could certainly make human interaction and the world in which we live entirely different.
The list of things we can address and control is enormous.
If we do what we can where we can, then only the huge unstoppable, currently unsolvable issues will be left.
There is more than enough mess that we cannot fix to go around.
Stop adding to the mess. Change what you can and then watch and feel the difference.