To trade places
“Today you will be tempted to feel sorry for yourself. Don’t! Lots of people would love to trade places with you. Before you get down in the dumps over whatever is bothering you, read today’s obituaries to see how many people younger than you died yesterday, or visit the burn or stroke rehab center at a local hospital.” — Rubel Shelly
We’ve heard similar sentiments before, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still need to be reminded. No matter how blessed we are, it’s far too easy to indulge in self-pity sometimes.
For example, during our years in Hawaii, there were lots of people who said they envied our being able to live in what they thought of as paradise. Some may have thought they would have traded places with us. But those were very difficult years in many respects, and I know I felt sorry for myself occasionally. From where I sit now, though, I naturally wonder how I ever did.
In fact, most of us, if we were able to travel back in time and visit a younger version of ourselves at a time when we were feeling low, would say, “Don’t! Someday you will realize more fully what you have right now. You won’t always have it.” Yet even at this moment, some future self probably could be saying that same thing to us today. For better or worse, today might be as good as it gets, and I want to make the most of it and not to look back with regret.
The trouble with self-pity is the first part of the term: self. There are a number of research studies documenting the positive effects of volunteer work in forestalling or improving depression, particularly among older people. Among many seemingly obvious reasons for this, it surely must be beneficial to re-focus and turn our thoughts and efforts away from our individual cares.
When we are active in faith or community groups, we become involved in the lives of other people. We learn to realize that almost nobody has it easy in this life. Even when our personal challenges are more burdensome than average, those difficulties are often inextricably linked to blessings we would not choose to be without.
I hope today is a happy one for you, with no reasons at all to feel sorry about anything. But if you find yourself feeling low, remember how many people, all over the world and throughout the centuries, would love to be in your shoes.