COLUMN: A little perspective always helps

Recently I needed to briefly distract my little boy, so I grabbed my iPad and found a nature video on YouTube about lions in some far-flung corner of Africa.

The documentary commentator noted that the lions sometimes hunt the oryx—a dangerously long-horned antelope—but prefer to pluck meals from the local herds of mules or donkeys, for obvious reasons.

Through a translator, a gesticulating member of the local tribe who owned the donkeys bemoaned the fact that a lion had killed one of hers and she could no longer travel to visit her grandchildren.

Note that: A lion killed her donkey so she can’t visit her grandchildren.

Think about that next time you run out of gas or you miss the bus.

It’s easy to bury our heads in the sand of our daily lives and forget to look big picture.

There’s the hackneyed “kids-are-starving-in-Africa” line fathers have dealt out to children since time immemorial when kids refused to finish their dinners. Cliché, sure, but a point worth remembering: There are kids starving in Africa . . . and Asia and Europe and Canada and even Chilliwack. Don’t waste food!

Using relativism in this way in our lives is important to give our lives perspective. It also can be a cup-is-half-full way of looking at the world when you get too focused in on the niggling details of day-to-day life.

I suspect Glenda Standeven, cancer survivor and local author of Choosing to Smile, can speak to this.

When you catch yourself uttering “What a nightmare!”as you are in a hurry stuck in a 12-car lineup at Tim Hortons, pause for a moment and think of those stuck in a 12-car pileup on the highway, or stuck in their car as a mudslide covers the road. It always could be worse.

I was at BC Childrens Hospital this week with my baby boy for what turned out to be a relatively minor, and almost unnecessary, surgery. We know how lucky we are. When I hear the name of BC Childrens I think of little Lilee-Jean Putt’s mother’s post on Facebook after the toddler finally succumbed to brain cancer in September.

“She had a rough day today, and is no longer in any distress,” L.J.’s mom Chelsey Whittle posted on Facebook at the time. “She passed away curled up in mommy’s arms, listening to daddy play his guitar.”

Others face unimaginable pain.

But there is a danger in overusing this practice of relativism. Those who might engage in high-level corporate or government malfeasance, for example, could suggest the public shouldn’t complain too much and the media shouldn’t investigate too deeply: “Don’t you have bigger stories to think about? At least we live in a wealthy democracy.”

On Tuesday, a number of folks protested the Fair Elections Act at MP Mark Strahl’s office. Notwithstanding your opinion on this piece of legislation and how critics say it could affect voter turnout, this is a protest worth paying attention to and an act worth discussing.

But engage too deeply in kids-are-starving-in-Africa relativism, and one might imagine it being used to distract.

“Fair Elections? Pshaw! At least they’re fairish. This isn’t Russia or Syria or North Korea.”

I have always suspected this is part of why we have such low voter turnout: It’s not that voters are cynical and angry at all politicians; it’s that the worst Canadian politician is just fine compared to Vladimir Putin or Bashar Al Assad or Kim Jong Un.

It’s not a contradiction to at once lament a lost iPhone and wonder what happened to Malaysian Airlines MH370. We can grouse about the Canucks while worrying about treatment of Canadian veterans. And there is nothing wrong with grumbling about traffic and then signing an online petition to stop sex trafficking.

It brings to mind comedian Louis CK lamenting those who complain about air travel and, specifically, sitting on a runway for 40 minutes before a flight.

“Oh my god, really? What happened then, did you fly through the air like a bird, incredibly?”

We all need a little perspective.

Our day-to-day gripes are gripes to be sure.

Just don’t forget about that African grandma and her donkey.

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