You won’t believe the troubles I am facing. Where to start? First, my housekeeper quit. She decided my rural estate was proving to be too much of a drive for her. I was already paying her a stipend for travel, but now I have to go to the trouble of finding a replacement for her. I hate that. I will have to take time out of my recreational schedule to interview. Ugh.
Next, would you believe we have been through five nannies in as many years? Is there no work ethic? Just like with housekeepers, interviewing nannies is so time consuming. And then there is following up on references, negotiating salaries, housing adjustments, etc. We even have to remodel our guest rooms and guest bathrooms to suit these finicky people.
Speaking of remodeling, have you ever tried to work with a remodeling contractor? What a hassle. Our kitchen and master bath remodels are WAY over budget and weren’t even close to being finished by the promised completion dates. Now we are going month-to-month having to use our smaller bathrooms and the servant’s kitchen. How frustrating.
While we are talking about houses, our vacation home in Florida had water damage from the last tropical storm. So just like our kitchen project, we are balancing contractors down there, too. All the same problems, but at a distance, which makes it even harder. Thank goodness our mountain cabin is operational right now or we wouldn’t have ANYWHERE to go for the weekends.
Also, the economy is stressful. In just one of my IRAs, I’ve lost over $20,000 in the past six months. That doesn’t even scratch the surface of all my other investments. To add insult to injury, I’m receiving ridiculously low rates on my various savings and interest-bearing checking accounts.
This next issue almost seems trivial by comparison, but our second freezer quit working! Holy cow. Do you know what a pain it is to re-stock an entire freezer? We had to throw out a bunch of food, although we salvaged a little by moving it to the primary freezer. Then we had to hire someone to come clean it all up. Our housekeeper, who normally does our shopping, had quit as I said, so WE had to go to the grocery. Yuck.
So all in all, my life is incredibly stressful right now. All of this on top of the fact that we have to go to work nearly every day except for our 8 weeks of vacation each year (plus various other personal days, but who is counting?). That leaves us totally drained.
OK – now for the truth. This is all made up, but for about 90 percent of the world, when Americans complain, this is what we sound like. Americans, on average, are the richest people in the world. In fact, the “poverty line” for a family of four in the U.S. is almost $25,000 a year. People in the rest of the world, on average, make less than half of that amount. And this doesn’t even take into account purchasing power (something called “purchasing power parity,” PPP). This refers to how much you can actually buy with those dollars and varies based on inflation, economics, and other issues.
Years ago, while I was standing in line at the cafeteria at the college where I teach, an American student was complaining about the food he saw in the serving islands around the cafeteria. Behind him was a student from Ethiopia. This Ethiopian student had come from unbelievable poverty. He had survived a famine, but hundreds of thousands of people of had died of starvation over a period of several years.
He looked at the American student and as sincerely as possible he said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” It was a humbling moment for those listening.
Gratitude, as I’ve written many times over the years, is one of the keys to happiness. As Americans, we often spend our time thinking about what we don’t have rather than appreciating what we do have. This becomes most clear to us when someone we love is seriously ill, our lives are threatened by near-misses on the highway, or we hear about tragedy in the lives of those who are close to us.
These events remind us of what really matters. In this season of thanksgiving, take a moment and reflect on your present frustrations. If you are like me, compared to the problems I could be facing, most of my worries are not really all that big after all.
[Gregory K. Moffatt, Ph.D., is a college professor, published author, licensed counselor, certified professional counselor supervisor, newspaper columnist and public speaker. He holds an M.A. in Counseling and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Georgia State University and has taught at the college level for over 30 years. His website is gregmoffatt.com.]