“We are wise to force ourselves to keep differentiating between simple inconveniences and authentic tribulations. The more detached and self-absorbed we become, the more we mistake annoyances for agonies.” ~ Beth Moore
I’ve been reading I Am Malala, a book given to me for Christmas (thank you, Jill!). If you have a TV and watch the news (unlike us), you have probably heard of her. She is a teenager from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban on her way to school, along with 2 other girls. I’m only half way through, but already it’s obvious that the fact that she was shot was the least of her worries.
She details quite thoroughly the political and cultural climate of the area she is from, the Swat Valley. It’s an old-fashioned place by our standards, but increasingly pushed farther back in time by the Taliban, in spite of the forward-thinking men and women that live there. Girls that had begun to experience the freedom and options of education, suddenly pushed back into the requirement of becoming wives and mothers at a very young age, confined to their homes like they were under house arrest, and men that had to grow their beards to a very specific length, and had to wear their robes at a precise length, all under threat of death. Schools bombed because primary-age boys and girls were learning together, water and hydro cut off for unknown reasons, war zones just outside of town. Legalism at it’s finest. This is what happens when the masses depend on clergy men to interpret the holy words for them, from a language no one reads. It sounds like the Dark Ages, but this story takes place over the last 15 years.
We are so blessed to live in Canada. Living in Canada is in itself a HUGE advantage, but if you have a roof over your head and ate breakfast this morning, you are blessed beyond knowing it. Volunteering at my kids’ school has given me a glimpse into just how blessed we are. There is the little girl who had no shoes, so the custodians pooled their money to buy her a pair. There is the little boy that we Breakfast Club volunteers sneak extra food to, knowing he’ll put it in his backpack for lunch. The other children have full lunches from home, and quite often have already eaten breakfast at home too. But we know which ones haven’t.
I can’t begin to imagine being in those places, especially as children. Falling asleep with the worry that the killing will make it’s way to our house or with the angry gnaw of constant hunger in my belly — these things are true agonies. I and my children haven’t experienced them, and I hope that we never will. But when we don’t experience these things, we don’t realize what true agony really is. Our range of knowledge is shifted toward the annoyance end and that is when, as Beth Moore pointed out, our annoyances become agonies. Not that our troubles are always all “First World Problems”. Some of our troubles really are huge and life-altering. But many of them aren’t. We need to step outside of our little realm and see our little problems, our inconveniences as they truly are. And that’s when we’ll finally have the perspective to walk alongside someone else while they struggle through their agony.