Our problems aren’t really problems

Published 12:01 am Saturday, August 2, 2014

Have you ever bought so many groceries you couldn’t fit them in your refrigerator? Have you ever complained about nothing to wear while staring at a closet full of clothes? If you said “yes” to these questions, then you live in the First World.

First World means you live in a highly-industrialized country with relatively few poor people. This compares to the Third World, defined as countries with high levels of poverty, low economic development, and high rates of illiteracy and disease.

There’s a video circulating on Facebook that draws an eye-opening contrast between what we who live in First World countries call problems compared to people living in Third World countries. Produced by “Water is Life,” the video shows people living in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, making statements that people like us would say. For instance, a barefoot little boy sitting on a pile of rocks says, “I hate it when my leather seats aren’t heated.”

A shabbily-dressed man standing in front of a shack says, “I hate it when my house is so big I need two wireless routers.” In another scene, a young boy leaning against a palm tree says, “I hate it when I tell them no pickles and they still give me pickles.”

Then there’s a winding creek where people are washing clothes and a little girl says, “I hate when I leave my clothes in the washer and they start to smell.” The video concludes with the words, “First World problems are not problems.”

This stark comparison came home to me recently when Pastor Francky Jeune from Haiti spent a week in south Alabama. He spoke in several churches in the area about the conditions in Haiti today – nearly three and half years after the devastating earthquake that killed 300,000 people in less than 30 seconds.

Pastor Francky thanked people from the various churches who have sent mission teams to build churches and conduct medical clinics for the people of his village and country. He asked for mission teams to continue coming because of the great need there.

This was not Pastor Francky’s first trip to America. He has seen our plenty. But as we ate meals him, I couldn’t help feeling guilty for leaving even a crumb on my plate. Haitians often have only enough food for one day and don’t know for sure where tomorrow’s meals will come from. I wondered what he thought of our comfortable churches when his congregations meet under pole barns.

Author/speaker John Stonestreet on his broadcast, “The Point,” cited remarks made by a comedian on late night TV, who said it’s strange that Americans live in a world filled with technological marvels that previous generations never dreamed of—and yet we seem dissatisfied. “We’ve got mobile devices that send invisible data through the air; we can travel anywhere on the planet in hours; and we can access the totality of human knowledge with the click of a button. And yet we gripe.”

Of whom much is given, much is required. Let’s “give thanks to the Lord” and give our time and money to help those less fortunate than us. (Psalm 107:8)