Have you ever found yourself berating a child for not being grateful for food, stating that children in less fortunate circumstances would be grateful to eat it? To the children I met on the streets of Durban in South Africa, a plate of food would be appreciated and devoured. It is understandable that a plate of food may be less appreciated by children who know it is just one of a few meals they will be offered that day. Life-saving treasure to one can be so ordinary to another that it risks being rejected.
To recognise when I am behaving like a spoilt child, I ask myself ‘What Does It Matter?’, not only to me but also to them? Who is ‘them’? Well, I think about those children I met on the street who were eating out of dustbins. I think about the young mother I met who, when in labour had to walk herself to the hospital, give birth with no-one she knew for support and then walk ‘home’ to the streets again. Her baby never knew a home other than that of crack houses, alleyways and curb-side cardboard dwellings. I think of the family of two adults and 13 children living in one very small shack together. Their shack was made of one room which was their bathroom, kitchen, bedroom and living room. I think of refugee parents so desperate that they would choose to risk their family’s life in order to find safe haven. They set out not knowing how they will survive but convinced that the treacherous journey ahead with no shelter, food, safety or guarantees is better than staying where they are.
I will never forget a story I heard Jeremy Courtney (Founder and CEO of Preemptive Love) tell when he gave an extremely challenging and memorable presentation in 2018. He told of a mother who needed to escape war torn Syria. She took her child over the mountains, but they didn’t have enough water to drink. Every day the child would say: “I’m thirsty”, and her heart would break as she would respond with tenderness: “I know, we don’t have water yet, but we will.” That child’s voice got quieter every day until it grew very faint and was eventually a whisper. That poor mother had to bury her child on that mountain because she did not have water to quench her thirst.
That puts things in perspective.
It is completely understandable that we find it difficult to relate to a wide issue that affects many people. It can feel too big and too large to relate to. But when that issue of a crowd is narrowed down to a name, a family and their story it becomes easier to relate. If you find it difficult to widen your point of perspective in a healthy way, then can I urge you to do some research and find another human who is facing hardship which places yours in perspective. Don’t just use them for your purposes, though. Act, donate, communicate, raise awareness, respond with compassion. Remember them the next time you are tempted to complain because you’ve forgotten to ask: “What Does It Matter?”.
 Preemptive Love is a coalition working to unmake violence.
I am proud to be an ambassador of We See Hope. A charity working to help vulnerable children in Southern and Eastern Africa.