There is always, always, always something to be grateful for. This is how I once opened a lecture to a group of people who were training to become volunteers for a non-profit organization that I worked for. I was met with “How can you minimize someone’s experience?” Fair question, but thought it odd, since I had 2 decades in the field working as a crisis counselor, and I was just trying to convey what I myself had learned. So, I replied “Let me throw out a few examples for you.”
While it is true that so many of us make the little things, big things. I try never to minimize what someone is going through. But there are two saying that I have found to be true. One only needs to take a look on social media to see the relevance of these sayings. First, the saying “Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction.” Powerful! When we continue to talk about our problems, we feed them, and they become much larger than they may actually be. Second, “Right now someone is praying to have the problems you have.” Even more powerful. So, when I was pushed for a better example, I offered up the following.
Michelle was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. Horrific diagnosis. She has not been given a prognosis however. Meanwhile Toni was on her way to dinner with her parents to announce that she was getting married. While on the way, she was hit by a drunk driver. Lying on the side of the road and will bleed out before the paramedics can get to her. Do you think she would be willing to trade places with Michelle? While Michelle’s diagnosis is not promising, do you think Toni would like a chance to fight for her life? Or, what about getting her house in order? What about saying I love you to family and friends one last time. Do you think she would trade places?
Jason and Wanda have been trying to have a child ever since they were married. Ten years later, they still are not pregnant. They do not want to adopt, and feel cursed. Meanwhile across town, Lisa, a 14 year old girl got pregnant on her first sexual encounter. Her parents demand that she get an abortion so she does not discredit the family name. She feels unloved, out of options and the boy that got her pregnant refuses to talk to her. Would Lisa like to trade places in order not to feel shamed and forced to have this abortion?
Mark is 68 and in a nursing home and has been in constant pain 24 hours a day. His pain is unmanageable, and has been for the past 17 months. Right next to his bed is Linda. She is about the same age as Mark, is being given Palliative Care, and expected to die within the next 72 hours. She is in no pain, family is gathered around her and will ultimately pass in her sleep. Mark has been praying to die. And he would trade places.
Matt is a Heroin addict and homeless. It is winter. He resides in an abandoned building. Tonight he lies there with a needle hanging out of his arm. He has no food, hope or family support. Rhonda is in a rehab and not working her program. She is disruptive, breaking rules and wants to leave, but can’t because treatment is court ordered. Do you think Matt would trade places with her? What do you think he would do to trade places to have a bed, bath, meal and to feel loved again? What do you think would happen if he felt hope again?
Dawn is a successful 30 something business owner. Yet all she does is complain that she is not married. Erin, her personal assistant, has been married for six years and constantly listens to Dawn saying she wished she had a husband like her. But what Dawn doesn’t know is that Erin’s husband has a gambling problem. What’s worse, when he loses big at the card table, he comes home and takes it out on her. Erin wants to get a divorce, but she cannot afford it. Furthermore, she believes that if she were to try and leave, he would do harm to himself or her. Would Erin trade places?
The truth is that someone right now is praying to have your problems. Of course we are entitled to have a bad day and to feel sorry for ourselves. But after 30 years working in mental health, I stand by what I said. And that is “There is always, always, always something to be grateful for.” Find that something. Now get on with your life. Because we can’t always trade places.