Thursday wasn’t a good day for me at work. I had a conflict with a co-worker that wasn’t even out in the open. She got irritated with me about something — unfairly, in my view — and she said some hurtful things behind my back.
I fumed about it for a couple of hours and I sent a message to a friend to say I wanted to tell her what had happened when we both had time. I was hurt and angry — and I wanted to complain about it.
Before I had the time to tell my friend about my woes, though, I got an email from her that changed my perspective.
“Please say a quick prayer for my sister’s little boy, Carson,” she wrote. “A tractor tire or tractor ‘something’ fell over onto him and he stopped breathing. (I don’t have the details yet.) They’ve just life-flighted him to Columbus.”
My friend’s 3-year-old nephew had been playing on the farm where he lives in Ohio and something heavy fell on him. He suffered broken bones and internal injuries. It was unclear whether he was going to live.
Suddenly, my little spat with a co-worker didn’t seem like a big deal.
I can’t pretend that everything in my life is great as long as someone else has it worse, but perspective and context definitely matter more than I sometimes remember. There will always be people whose lives are far worse than mine — those whose problems are far more serious — but I can’t pretend that my problems are solved because they have it worse.
At the same time, though, putting my issues into perspective can change the way I see them. I don’t want to waste as much mental energy on trivial problems as I first did Thursday. I also don’t want to pretend those irritations don’t exist. I’m not sure where to draw the line between those two extremes.
I don’t have a good answer to that, but I’m certain it’s something I need to think about more. I need more perspective. I need to see my problems more in context. I need to be willing to let more things go without treating them as though they matter.
Should I get irritated when I can’t find the right place to live? Should I get frustrated that I haven’t been able to figure out a cheap way to fix a problem with my car’s heat this week? Should I complain because a co-worker talked about me behind my back? What’s worth my mental energy and what should I ignore?
I don’t know.
But I do know this. Somebody said some things behind my back Thursday and that ultimately won’t matter. That woman isn’t a major figure in my life and never will be. I won’t be in this job forever and there will come a day soon when I’ll never deal with her again. It really doesn’t matter what she thinks.
It’s just my ego that was bruised. It was some old buttons that got pushed. Nothing more.
I could have been a precious 3-year-old boy today whose body was crushed and is fighting for his life tonight. I could have been the loving parents of that boy, helplessly waiting in an unfamiliar hospital in the hopes their son can make it through the night. I could have been the extended family and friends of that little boy, worried about their loved ones and sick with grief that there’s nothing they can do.
When I think about those people, my work dispute isn’t a big deal.
So if you’re worried about some minor thing tonight, be grateful that your life is as great as it probably is. Realize that the things you’re so worried about probably aren’t as bad as you fear.
And while you’re at it, please say a prayer for a 3-year-old in Ohio fighting for his life — and for the people who love him, people who have something bigger to worry about than you and I do.
Update: Five days after his scary accident, Carson was able to go home and is expected to fully recover from his injuries.