If you can read this right now, there is so much to be thankful for.
I have always been fascinated with World War II. The mere idea that there was this brutal evil in the world, and a massive coalition of human beings united to stop it – successfully – by sacrificing everything they could? It grips me.
I’m in the middle of reading The Longest Winter, an excellent book about the Battle of the Bulge. I highly recommend you grab a copy at that link. I’m about 3/4 of the way through it, and it’s stunning what some of these men went through.
There are tons of examples throughout the book (and many more like it), but I want to focus on one aspect that I came across in recent chapters.
The platoon that the book focuses on has been captured. Basically, all the main characters – real people – are now prisoners of war. This is a true account, cobbled together from interviews and other cited research scattered throughout the book.
The Germans have loaded them onto train cars to take them… somewhere.
Let’s start there: you have battled frostbite, starvation, trench foot, and injury. You’re already psychologically damaged by war itself. Now, you’re jammed into a train car with no place to sit or lie down, with hundreds of other men. None of you have showered or brushed your teeth in weeks. There is no fresh air, no light, no freedom for days at a time. You don’t know where you’re going, even!
And there’s no bathroom.
You’re all taking turns relieving yourself in a corner of the train car. You all share the same air and space as this pile of excrement that grows in the corner. There’s only one small air vent, so it’s not like you can ever get away from the smell.
At various points, you’re all suffering from dysentery. A helmet is passed around so that you can defecate in it, and everybody takes turns sitting by the vent and having to empty the helmet out through it.
And this is just what the healthy soldiers went through.
Some of the soldiers focused on in the book have had their faces blown off. One took a shell to his jaw – obliterating his face and lodging several teeth into the roof of his mouth. He spent weeks having to lie down, bandages all over his face, and being given zero treatment. They didn’t even take the teeth out, they just left them in the roof of his mouth.
Now, imagine you’re going through all of this… and you’re pretty sure that on any given day, you’re going to be shot dead.
This is the very definition of a nightmare.
As you read this, you could be dealing with major, life-threatening, excruciatingly painful health concerns right now. But if you have access to a hospital and even ibuprofen or aspirin to assist with the discomfort and pain… you have it better than these guys did.
If you sleep in your own bed at night… you have it better than these guys did.
If you have the ability to use the bathroom in an actual toilet… you have it better than these guys did.
If you have a roof over your head – even if it leaks – and heat in your home… you have it better than these guys did.
Even if you sleep on the street, by yourself, in a cardboard box, but somebody walks by and drops a quarter in your hat, and nobody is standing next to you with a gun just itching for the chance to shoot you in the chest… you still have it better than these guys did.
The old meme of “First World Problems” is often amusing, because it focuses on the extravagances of living in a wealthy nation. And it’s funny to think that there are people who lose their minds because the WiFi just doesn’t connect fast enough or whatever.
But even the most basic, fundamental comforts of your existence in 2019 are things that not everyone gets to enjoy.
We all fall into the trap of “First World Problems.” I do it all the time, complaining about:
- Not being able to afford to go out to eat for dinner
- Not having money left over after paying rent on my three-bedroom townhouse where I have a private office to myself
- Not having enough time in the day to work out regularly
- Having to sleep on the couch one night
- Not getting to go on vacation
- Having to deal with window air conditioners (the horror!) rather than having central air
- Walking through my muddy driveway that should have been repaired years ago
- Getting too many phone calls from spammers and debt collectors
Do you see?
These are all annoyances, sure, but are they that big of a deal?
Today, I want to encourage you to focus on gratitude. If you’re reading this, that means you have a computer or phone that connects to the internet. I’m only 34 years old, and it wasn’t that long ago when those things literally did not exist at all – especially not for the average consumer.
Be thankful for the fact that you’re not shivering right now. Be thankful that you’re not literally starving, even if you’re a little on the hungry side. Be thankful that, even if you’re sick, you can lay on the couch and take some medicine, knowing that it will pass.
Be thankful that nobody is standing outside your door, ready at any moment to line you up against a wall and shoot you.
Let that gratitude be your motivating factor today. Move forward in your life with the confidence that, hey, this world isn’t perfect, but we all have it pretty darn good right now.
Don’t fall into the negativity trap that the average person falls into thanks to the 24-hour news cycle. This world is greater than it’s ever been in the history of mankind.