Who Carries Your Picture in Their Wallet?

I had coffee this morning with a journalist friend who wrote a series of compelling pieces in 2008 about children in a Michigan orphanage. In one particular conversation, a boy asked her who the children were in photos on her phone. When she explained they were her children, the boy replied, “No one carries my picture.”

We take for granted pretty much everything in our daily lives. People love us. They call to inquire how we are. Many of us spend a lifetime escaping the confines and demands of family, in fact.

We complain, bemoan and criticize. We lament the family into which we were born, never once thinking what it might have been like without any family at all behind us and around us.

Yesterday, my little guy cried over how rarely he sees his dad. I felt out of sorts, feeling that divorced mom pull of wanting to satisfy his every need.

But then it occurred to me that the things we complain about, without perspective, could really be seen another way. Everything can. My little guy, once sad, has three parents and six grandparents who loved him to the ends of the earth.

This morning, when the phone rang from school and he had forgotten his shoes, I trekked from downtown to the house to the school to drop off his lovely shoes and then back downtown to meet my friend for coffee.

Some kids have no one to bring their shoes if they forget. Some kids have no shoes except the ones charity drops at their door.


I won’t lambast my children with “some kids have no food to eat” but I will put it all in context so we can get our bearings and get it together. What we who are comfortable and well cared for complain about is no complaint at all when compared with real life-threatening or life-changing problems in the world.

Feeling depressed or lonely one day is nothing to living with that hunger for love behind your rib cage every day of your life. And the best way to resolve our own laments is to give to others.

I’m willing to bet that if I took my kids in their saddest moments to help refugee children or children in a soup kitchen or children in a safe haven for abused families, they’d instantaneously forget their complaints and feel so incredibly grateful.

It’s a lesson I need to digest, too.

When we don’t want to go to work or hate the sound of the alarm buzzing in our ear some morning, it would do us well to remember that some people have no work to go to, or a job where they aren’t treated right, or paid enough. And many people have no children to make lunches for before the dawn.

It’s all about perspective. And balance.

We are swayed by our emotions all the time, and they are real and important – but not enough to revolve a life around. People with a lot of stuff and cushion tend to complain a hell of a lot more than those who do without.

Shame on us. Our parents didn’t work tirelessly to give us everything so we’d expect more.

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