Why counting your blessings might help you share them

‘First world problems’ is an oft-quoted phrase, used to refer all the things that people in the west think go wrong with their lives. But too often they’re so busy complaining that they forget how lucky they are. It was a point made by our Giving Back blogger Grandad Ron Banks who climbed aboard his soapbox to make the point to his son Ollie…

“Look at that,” said Ollie, jabbing a finger at his takeaway coffee cup. “The barista’s written ‘Lollie’ on my cup. And there’s no brown sugar. I ought to complain,” he added, grumpily tipping white sugar into his drink.

“What you ought to do is listen to yourself, and get over it,” said his father, dunking his teabag up and down in his own cup. “You’re ready to throw your toys out of the pram for a couple of the most minor inconveniences. Life’s too short to get wound up over things like that, and yours will be even shorter if you keep driving your blood pressure up.”

Warming to his topic, the older man ran through all the reasons they had to be grateful. “We’re sitting in a shopping centre, where it’s warm. We have a hot drink each. We aren’t having to trail round looking at clothes our wives aren’t going to buy but will insist that we feel the fabric of anyway. You’re getting quality time with your father. What’s not to like? And what’s more, why would you want to highlight the two things that detract from the enjoyment? I, on the other hand, am having to listen to someone complain. I can get that at home,” he added.

“What you ought to be doing is thinking how lucky you are. There are people who haven’t the faintest idea what a barista is and wouldn’t be able to afford a coffee from one even if they did. These are people who have to eke out an existence – because it’s hardly a life – with next to nothing. They pick over rubbish heaps; they live in shacks with earth floors and no running water; they have no hope of any kind of reasonable education. And you’re complaining about there being no brown sugar. Perspective, boy, perspective.”

A chastened Ollie stirred his coffee slowly. “I do help them. We use the Solo Expenses expense management app at work, and Solo Expenses are regular donors to adopted charities. That’s a good way of giving back to society.”

“Can’t argue with that, son, and I know the charities they’ve chosen to support are real change makers. But do you think it’s enough? Could you do a bit more? Perhaps you could share your blessings without diminishing them, and boost the contribution Solo Expenses makes?”

Pulling out his phone and finding the Solo Expenses Giving Back web page, he scrolled through its content and said: “Look at these. All good causes, and making sure money goes to the place it’s actually needed, so it isn’t lost in Government corruption and bureaucracy. Any one of them would welcome the money that would buy your skinny hazelnut frappe latte thingy, even if it doesn’t have brown sugar in it.

“And if you gave one of these charities the money instead, you could eliminate the barista spelling your name wrong, so that would be an improvement, and you could wander around behind Lizzie feeling how soft some pullovers are, or whatever it is that women do for hours in shopping centres…”

“Well, if you put it like that,” said Ollie, “I suppose to help others is the right thing to do. I guess I’m guilty of not realising just how lucky I am.”

Ron’s cup paused on the way to his mouth. “Remember the TV comedy sketch in which old businessmen tried to outdo each other with tall stories about how hard their upbringing was?” Ollie shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. One of them said he and his family had lived in a cardboard box in the middle of the road. It was supposed to be funny. But some people actually do live in cardboard boxes; at the side of roads, at least. I think that’s an injustice in the 21st century, and it will only change if everyone, including us, learns from the example of Solo Expenses and tries to make a difference.”