by Father Mark Goldasich
“Pardon me, would you like a little cheese with your whine?”
More and more these days, that expression pops into my head. It seems as if whining has become our national pastime. It’s found on practically everyone’s lips: from students to baseball players to politicians to parents to retirees to parishioners. I wish I could say that I don’t whine, but I regularly find myself nursing a large platter of cheese!
The most effective antidote to whining is something called perspective. You don’t need a prescription for it or have to buy it over the counter. All you have to do is to take a good, hard, honest look around you.
I find the following little poem insightful:
“Today upon a bus, I saw a lovely girl with golden hair;/I envied her — she seemed so gay — and wished I were as fair./When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle;/ She had one foot and wore a crutch, but as she passed, a smile./Oh, God, forgive me when I whine;/I have two feet — the world is mine.
“And then I stopped to buy some sweets./The lad who sold them had/Such charm. I talked with him — he said to me:/’It’s nice to talk with folks like you./You see,’ he said, ‘I’m blind.’/Oh, God, forgive me when I whine;/ I have two eyes — the world is mine!
“Then, walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of blue./He stood and watched the others play;/ It seemed he knew not what to do./I stopped for a moment, then I said:/’Why don’t you join the others, dear?’/ He looked ahead without a word, and then/ I knew he could not hear./Oh, God, forgive me when I whine;/ I have two ears — the world is mine!
“With feet to take me where I’d go/With eyes to see the sunset’s glow,/With ears to hear what I would know,/Oh, God, forgive me when I whine;/I’m blessed, indeed! The world is mine.” (Anon)
I could hear this poem in the back of my mind as I read the interview in this week’s Leaven with Dr. Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the overseas aid agency of U.S. Catholics. CRS is our presence in situations of need throughout the world. Woo not only puts a face on refugees, she gives these people, our fellow human beings, a heart and soul. In other words, “they” are really not all that different from “us.”
The photos that accompany Woo’s interview should stop all of us whiners in our tracks. For example, when we open a fully stocked refrigerator and complain that there’s “nothing here to eat,” meditate for a while on the photo on page 8 where many hands are eagerly grabbing for just a small piece of bread. Or when we fret that it’s chilly outside as autumn takes hold, look at the picture on the front page, where refugee moms and children are trying to warm themselves by a small fire.
Ever whine about how long it takes for a Web page to load? Check out the photo of the sub-Saharan refugee on the boat, who is so relieved and grateful that he’s being rescued and won’t face drowning at sea. And the next time we gripe about how cold the bathroom floor is as we head to the shower, let’s remember the Syrian refugee covered in dust on page 9.
Carolyn Woo is knowledgeable about what it means to be a refugee, as she and her parents fled China years ago. She’s also passionate about alleviating suffering in the world. Head to The Leaven website to see a short video of Woo’s interview, as well as many more photos of what refugees face daily. It’s hard to imagine that 60 million people — a number comparable to one in six Americans — are now displaced. We’re blessed that organizations like CRS minister to these brothers and sisters of ours . . . and don’t let us forget them.
Woo believes that the one thing holding people back from helping the immigrant or refugee is fear — fear of the “other,” fear of the stranger. Let’s not allow fear to paralyze us. Since CRS operates in our name, how about sending them a financial “treat” this Halloween? Figure out how much you spent on candy, decorations and costumes and then send a donation to CRS, matching that amount.
Seeing the real suffering of so many people worldwide puts our First World “problems” into perspective. Like the anonymous poet, we cry out, “Oh, God, forgive me when I whine;/I’m blessed, indeed! The world is mine.”
And because the world is ours, let’s put away the whine and cheese and rush to help our scattered, wandering family in need.