SPIRIT-FILLED LEADERSHIP

Trey Campbell is a leading authority on utilizing biblically-based principles to help leaders and salespeople expand their influence.

Putting Your Problems into Perspective

We all have our pet peeves.

While I take great pride in having a very good sense of irony and humor, I dislike the term “first-world problems.” It points out the silly “problems” we have that are really just mild annoyances. When there are people all over the world – no matter how wealthy or poor their country is – who are starving, oppressed, enslaved, unemployed, and disadvantaged, our thoughtlessness in drawing attention to a relative minor aggravation is not really a laughing matter. When millions are the victims of corruption, trafficking, and mismanaged governments and economies, you will find an epic level of human anguish.

I was reading an article about the current crisis in Venezuela. Quite frankly, I was in shock at all of the atrocities the people of that nation are going through. For those who are not tuned in, there is a socioeconomic and political crisis in the country that began in nine years ago under the presidency of Hugo Chávez and has continued under the current leadership of Nicolás Maduro. It’s widely acknowledged as not only the worst economic crisis in the history of Venezuela, but among the worst ever in North, Central, or South America.

I was first made aware of the heartbreak when I was in Ecuador.

According to the Washington Post, the United Nations figures over 3 million Venezuelans have left in search of a better life. That “better life” means seeking the most basic of needs for themselves and their families. Most of these refugees have sought a new life in Colombia and Ecuador.

I was reminded of my disdain for “first-world problems” appropriately enough on Valentine’s Day. My wife ordered pizza online at a local Papa John’s. I volunteered to pick it up after work since I was already nearby. Let’s just say Papa John’s was having an off night. After spending over 20 minutes in the drive-thru to pick up and pay for the pizza order, I left the line and drove around, eventually parking to physically go inside. I didn’t expect the 20+ people who were crammed in the small lobby. There was no line, no order… just chaos – upset people who were waiting to be served or pick up an order.

As I made my way in, pressed against the hungry mob, I calmly waited until I could get closer and assess the situation. I caught up on social media, read a few articles on the ESPN app, and people-watched. I was surprisingly composed about the situation – especially since it was 1.5 hours past when the pizza was supposed to be ready.

However, that was not the case with everyone.

As I stood there for over an hour (mind you, it was Valentine’s Day and my Valentine wanted pizza; otherwise I would have left long before…), I further thought about the article I just read about the Venezuelan predicament. It told the story of a nurse who was unable to provide the most basic needs for her family and children. She would have to wait two days in line to get whatever food there was, taking what scraps she could get. It got so bad, she made the choice to leave her home and family to seek any job she could get in Colombia. Finding the large influx caused by a population surge of her own people, any available jobs had all but disappeared. This educated, professional, career-driven mother was forced to make a decision for survival. And she did. She now sells her body and lives in disgrace, hiding what she is doing from her family because of the shame and guilt.

As I stood in that Papa John’s lobby, I thought about how having to wait for a couple of pizzas and breadsticks for an hour or more was nothing compared to having to wait for two days to maybe get some food. I was not forced to do radical and reprehensible things to stay alive and care for my family. And if I was, would I do it? What lengths would I go to keep my family alive?

Over the years, my eyes have seen some horrific things… but through many of those awful things, I’ve found happiness and peace in the people experiencing it. Through mission work, service projects, and spreading love, I have been able to not release the burden of hardship, but offer a spark of hope. I can’t solve the problems of the world, but I know complaining about trivial things seems petty in light of what others are going through.

I also know this: it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, or how rich or poor you are:

Problems, no matter how big or how small,

are simply opportunities to engage your faith.

It’s just a matter of putting your problems in perspective.

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