“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” ~ William Arthur Ward
You know those days where you are frustrated by all the laundry you have to do? The dishes that need to be loaded into the dishwasher? The crumbs all over the floor, the carpet that needs to be vacuumed, the dog that needs to be walked, the fridge that needs to be cleaned out, the pantry that needs to be organized, the blinds that desperately need to be dusted…? We may get exhausted just thinking about our list of “to-do’s” we have to do after work, or before we go to sleep, to keep up with our house, cars, pets, yard, etc.
Years ago I saw a poem on a friend’s fridge that stopped me in my tracks. It was something like this:
I AM THANKFUL FOR…
Laundry – because it means that my family has clothes to wear.
Dishes – because it means that my family has food to eat.
Bills – because it means that we have financial provisions.
Making Beds – because it means we have a warm, soft place to rest at night.
Dusting – because it means we have furniture to enjoy.
Vacuuming – because it means we have a home to care for.
Picking up toys- because it means I have children to bring joy to my life.
There are many variations to this poem, but the point in all of them is clear: Even the unfavorable things in your life (dishes, laundry, cleaning, chores) can be indicative of the blessings you have.
I want to share two examples of this concept. First, the city recently repaired an area of the road in front of my house where a large amount of water gathers during rainstorms. For over a week I was unable to use my garage or driveway and had to park down the street and WALK to my house. Although I have not always had a garage to park in, I had allowed myself to get used to it and missed it; I felt discouraged on my drive home remembering I would be minorly inconvenienced. I am embarrassed to admit how quickly I forgot I had asked the city to come repair my road and they were simply doing what I had asked. Plus the short-term discomfort would yield long-term benefits for me and my property.
This second example is told in my friend’s words, “my laundry machine broke and it took days to get a repairman out to resolve the issue. Once it was repaired and working again, I reminded myself that many people do not have a washing machine to begin with. There are individuals around the world who still use washboards and buckets or rivers to wash their clothes! Me complaining about my washing machine breaking was a typical first world problem; I actually feel a little ashamed for my sour attitude considering my blessed state.”
Are there things like this in your life that you can stop and think about during this season of gratitude? Both of those situations are great examples of what is commonly referred to as a first world problem. Simply defined, a first world problem is a relatively trivial or minor problem or frustration when contrasted to much more serious problems that others may be experiencing in the developing world. The washing machine breaking was a first world problem. Having children or a pet to take care of is a first world problem. Having to load your dirty dishes into a machine that cleans them for you is maybe a little bit of a first world problem. Having so many toys/make-up/books that you find yourself regularly having to re-organize them is a first world problem. Having a house or a car that you need to clean is actually a first world problem!
I recently read a study from Britain about the top 50 first world problems. It is a fascinating list and I recommend you take the time to look it over. Among the irritations listed are the following: Runny nose, calls from unknown numbers, waiting on hold, having no WiFi, online deliveries being late or lost, blisters from new shoes, not being able to fast forward TV, when it is cold outside but too hot in buildings, chipped nail polish, water not getting warm fast enough, and long lines in stores to name a few. What other frustrations have you experienced that could be considered a first world problem when compared to some other, much larger global issues?
My hope with this blog post is to bring the problems you and I face into proper perspective. The fact of the matter is that the privileges and comforts you and I experience that sometimes malfunction, or cause annoyance, are in and of themselves a reason to rejoice. What would it be like to see our frustrations as opportunities to be grateful?
The next time you are feeling irritated by any of the simple “annoyances” I have mentioned (or a million others you might soon recognize in your own life as #firstworldproblems), I urge you to pause and see these occurrences as first world problems. Be gentle with yourself as you try to change your attitude and see your world differently. Give thanks that you get to worry about the chore of getting an oil change or folding warm, freshly washed and dried laundry from a machine in your own home. Being grateful will change your perspective and you will see that you possess great comforts, blessings, and commodities. Doing so will create an attitude of gratitude that will permeate your life and change these seemingly annoying moments into deep thankfulness.
I hope you can strive to see the blessings all around you–some may be less apparent than others. Happy holidays!
Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.
- Cluff Counseling: NOVEMBER GRATITUDE: A RUMINATORS GUIDE TO BEING CONTENT IN THE NOW
- Cluff Counseling: THE PERPETUAL ART OF GRATITUDE
- Cluff Counseling: YOU ARE BLESSED: A SIMPLE GRATITUDE CHALLENGE
- Good Reads: First World Problems Quotes
- The Guardian: Why the phrase ‘first world problem’ is condescending to everyone
- Insider: The top 50 ‘first world problems’ include having a runny nose and not being able to find the end of the sellotape
- Parade: 50 Thankful Quotes for Practicing Gratitude All Year Long