First World Problems

National Blog Posting Month – January 2014 – Pressure

Prompt – If you could persuade people to do one thing right now, what would it be?


Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Pick me!

I have no idea.

Actually, maybe I do. I would try to convince people to spend some time in a 3rd world country. And if that’s not really possible, then spend some time with the truly impoverished. The desperately poor. The homeless.


Because so-called “First World Problems” make me mad.

People whine. Oh the drama! Life is so hard.

“Why won’t so-and-so just drive me here?”

“My phone won’t work.”

“It snowed and I can’t get to my hair appointment.”

Or, my favorite, “You bought the store brand? I wanted the name brand.”

Cry me a river.

I’m not saying that there aren’t economic problems here (I’m in the United States). I’m not saying that there’s not a huge stinking error in the distribution of wealth in the world. What I’m saying is that most of the things that people consider a crisis around here are completely unimportant in the grand scheme of things. We can whine that our cable is out because we already have a house, a car, electricity, and plenty of food.

I’ve been to Bolivia twice. Bolivia, at least the remote places on the Altiplano that I visited, was a third-world kind of country. The military was everywhere. People grew their own food. Cell phones are relatively new there. People lived in thatched roof cottages!

It put everything in perspective for me. I lived for two weeks without bathing and without the Internet. I came out OK. When I returned to the U.S., I wanted to get rid of all the materialist things that I have lying around.

Of course, I fell back into my routine and started collecting things again. I’ve forgotten some of the lessons learned, but not all of them.

The most important lesson that I got from the experience is that no matter how bad I think I’ve got it, I’ve actually got it pretty good, because I’ve got it better than the people of Bolivia. If something happens to me that would also be distressing to them – you know, like my house burns down – then I know I can complain. Otherwise, it’s probably a triviality.

There are days when first world problems happen and they do upset me. Like right now, I really need to replace my phone because the one I have is having… issues. But I’m not going to blow up and put it all over the Internet that my life is ruined because my phone doesn’t always make phone calls. I’ll just be annoyed, take a deep breath, and deal with it.


  1. Kathy Hadley says:

    If I could have people do one thing right now, it would be feel gratitude for all they have.

    And just be happy.

    Well, that is two things. But they are the most important.




    1. Penny says:

      Far too many don’t even recognize all the great things that they have. It’s good to remember the difference between what you have and what you need, and be grateful knowing that you actually have all that you need. (And if you don’t, then you do have the right to be upset.)


  2. We have folks in the US who live in similar houses. And, my clients and compatriots in Bolivia live lives similar to ours here.
    There is a difference, I admit. But, it’s more related to the extensiveness of a middle class (which is disappearing in the US), the pervasiveness of the military/police state (which is becoming more prevalent in the US)…
    The big difference between what we used to term the First World and the Third World is the PERVASIVENESS of clean water, reliable power, etc.
    And, the attitudes of people towards the little problems in life.


    1. Penny says:

      I definitely agree that there are parts of Bolivia that aren’t so different from middle-class USA. But when you get away from the cities, it’s quite different than the ‘home’ most of us here are used to. And it’s a slap in the face for many.


  3. I admire the time and treasure people devote to third world causes. Just wish they would consider being equally generous to causes closer to home. We have ‘third world’ conditions in every town in America – people in need, people going hungry. What is the big allure of traveling to a different hemisphere to do good?


    1. Penny says:

      It’s not so ‘in-your-face’ here in the U.S., so it’s easy to ignore, or explain away as ‘not my problem.’ Visiting Bolivia opened my eyes to it, but if I did something, it would be at home.


  4. Winnie says:

    I live in NYC and homelessness is a big problem. It is a sad plight, and as sad as it is, to me, the reactions that some have for these souls make me angry and sad. I have tried to get assistance from transit workers a few times, and am ignored or yelled at when I was trying to get medical help for a man. Compassion starts with each of us.


    1. Penny says:

      And it’s sad, isn’t it, how many people blame the homeless for their plight, when time and again, studies have shown that this isn’t the case.


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