Every day on Twitter, someone posts something that ends with #firstworldproblem. For instance:
Starbucks put whipped cream on my pumpkin spiced latte even though I asked for no whip. My morning is wrecked! #firstworldproblem
Stylist cut my bangs too choppy. Looks like my 4-year-old niece cut them. Spending the month in my room. #firstworldproblem
Just ate so much at Cheesecake Factory that I can barely move. #firstworldproblem
You get the idea. It’s an excuse to whine about a problem that we all know isn’t really a problem, compared to what’s happening in the rest of the world. I have a few #firstworldproblems of my own. For instance, sometimes I can’t fit all of our food in the pantry. I drive all the way to Atlanta for Trader Joe’s, and I come home and have to cram boxes of chicken stock and pasta into the bottom behind the dog food and end up leaving a pile on the counter until I can Tetris my surplus food onto the shelves. #firstworldproblem
We have manual doors on our minivan that are the bane of our children and the teachers in the drop off carpool line, who stand patiently waiting for me to press a button. Every day last year we had to have the awkward, “Does this open-do I open-do you do it?” back and forth while the rest of the line backed up waiting for us to manhandle our sticky, cheap doors. This year, they must’ve put a note in our file that reads “Dales didn’t spring for the auto-doors. Start doing arm curls now.” #firstworldproblem
I’ve been battling ringworm all summer and into the fall. One spot dies and another one pops up. It’s completely obnoxious and itchy and it’s gotten so bad that my son asks me, “Wait, wheh’s youh wingwohm, Mommy?” whenever I go to hug him. At one point a couple of weeks ago, I felt like putting on sackcloth and sitting in ashes outside on the curb and yelling, “Unclean!” to everyone who passed me. I have literally prayed, “Lord, deliver me from ringworm.” I’ve washed everything again and again; I’ve had the dog checked; I’ve done everything. So annoying. And I have this magic tube of medicine from the dermatologist that cost $60 WITH insurance that clears up each spot pretty quickly. My kids in Adacar are covered with it and they don’t have a magic tube. And on a one-to-ten scale of their problems, it’s a negative twenty. Doesn’t even make it on the list. That it’s driving me this crazy is a #firstworldproblem.
Here’s another one. Bugs. I live in Georgia, and the bugs here are from the Mesozoic Era. They’re all vicious and gigantic, and the first summer that we lived here, Alex and I spent the majority of our evenings standing on the couch shrieking like little girls (I used to think that was offensive until I had a little girl. Yup. It fits.). The mosquitos eat us alive and are so aggressive that they follow us into the house. Their bites swell up and at one point I had to take Elliott to the doctor just to get his eye to open when one bit him on the face. Bugs are taking over our house, our yard, and it feels like we live in a swamp. And I have this magic guy whom I call, and he comes out with some spray that makes them DIE DIE DIE! And I have this magic ointment that soothes the itching. And I have magic doctors who write prescriptions for cortizone. And in the ’70s our government dropped this magic toxin called DDT all over our country that killed off the malaria-causing mosquitos. Okay, not so magic, but hey, bonus, no malaria here. So any itching that we incur, I’ll chalk up as a #firstworldproblem.
Our sponsored kids in Uganda do not have the luxury of an entire Rite Aid filled with creams and ointments for all their skin needs. They don’t have easy access to doctors or the ability to pay for them. When they get mosquito bites, they often get malaria. They have #thirdworldproblems. They pray. They hope. They keep smiling and praising Jesus for their blessings.
Through Children’s HopeChest, we have partnered our first world community with their third world community, and we both benefit from the friendship. All of my blustery strength can fit into the pinky nail of the head caretaker at Adacar CarePoint. She and her peers are amazing, and they teach me so much about faith in a God who hears us.
Community to community partnership. Our community united with theirs. Oh how I love Adacar. Oh how I love each sponsor who has come alongside a precious child in this northern Ugandan village over the last three years. Three years of amazing progress. On my last visit, I could feel hope in my hands hugging children and widows. I lifted hope into my arms and squeezed her.
Hope is alive in Adacar, but we have new sorrow as well. I’ve received word of severe flooding that has caused heavy crop losses. This summer, we watched as teams of oxen plowed those beautiful gardens! The large amount of water has affected our new pit latrines and has increased the risk of waterborne illnesses like malaria and diarrhea. Some of the immediate needs include more mosquito nets, mattresses, blankets, waterproof tarps, and water purification tablets. Malaria is a huge problem for our friends in Adacar, and many of the children were suffering with it when we visited them this summer. Large amounts of standing water means more mosquitos means more bites means more disease. #thirdworldproblems
Last night, it stormed where I live. My daughter woke us all up screaming, but other than that, we didn’t feel it, curled up in our cozy beds with our watertight roof and sturdy walls. I’ve visited my sponsored children in their homes. Many of them sleep on woven mats on the dirt floor of their huts. A few have mattresses on the ground. I cannot imagine sleeping with mud and standing water all around. The nice new pit latrines that we used in June, brimming with contaminated water…it makes me ill to think about it.
We have not come this far to look the other way now. They are friends. They are family, our brothers and sisters in Christ. I am horrified at how comfortable I am sitting at my desk in my dry home as I write this post. Today, I actually got to debate whether to fog the bugs in my house or do a spray around the baseboards. (I am a huge all-natural advocate, but the bugs have gotten so bad that I told the guy, “I don’t care if you napalm the house. Spray it in my mouth if it’ll help.” Says the woman who uses organic vegan butter.) Here, we have options in keeping the critters at bay. There, they’re sloshing through standing water up to their ankles and sleeping on mats on the wet ground while malaria-spreading mosquitos breed in the puddles around them.
We cannot content ourselves with the #firstworldproblem copout. Do we have real problems here in the West? Absolutely. Real ones. Painful ones. But we all need to chill about the things that don’t matter and focus our combined outrage over coffee cups and haircuts onto what does, our brothers and sisters in real crisis.
I’m talking with HopeChest now about what they need and how we can partner with them. We’re working on a plan to raise extra funds so that the staff in Uganda doesn’t need to touch the sponsorship money in order to provide disaster relief. We want the programs with the children to continue. More than ever, they need bellies filled with food and hearts filled with Jesus.
I’ll write soon about the whats and hows. Would you join me in praying about what you can do and how you can help? Pray for Adacar. Pray for God to heal and restore and draw hearts to Jesus. Whether we have #firstworldproblems or #thirdworldproblems, we have the love of a Savior, our Redeemer, who hears our prayers.