In 1985, Dr. Kevin Leman published The Birth Order Book. It’s a good read. My favorite part is the opening sentence in the chapter on only children; “You can always tell the only child; he takes his briefcase to kindergarten.” As the mother of an only, I can tell you it’s true. Only children live with just adults, and sometimes they think they are adults.
My son fit this profile. When he was a preschooler he stopped taking naps, and those over tired days were hard. When J got overly tired, he would fixate on adult-like concerns. I remember him sobbing, “but mom, what will I do? I need a car to get to a job, but I can’t get a car until I get a job!” and “what if I get in an accident, and I don’t have money to fix my car?” After that one I made the mistake of explaining insurance. I thought it would comfort him, but over tired preschoolers are not easily consoled. “Mom, what if I can’t pay for insurance? If I don’t have insurance I can’t drive my car!” No matter how many times I told him that his dad and I would be there to help, no matter how many times I explained things, he just worried. He was tired. And four. (Ironically I blinked, and here we are providing the promised help as he works his first job and learns to drive. But that’s a different story.)
Sometimes I feel like that ridiculous overly tired preschooler. I look at the statistics, and I just want to wail that I can’t handle it!
1 in 9 people doesn’t get enough to eat.
1 in 4 children is stunted by malnutrition.
21,000 people die each day from hunger and hunger-related illness, many of them children.
A child dies from hunger or hunger-related illness every 10 seconds.
I just can’t do enough to put a dent in those staggering numbers.*
But maybe like my preschooler, I’m overwhelmed because I’m biting off more than I’m responsible for. Maybe I can’t save the world. But I’m not called to change the world. I’m called to change me. Think about the fruits of the spirit from Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. SELF-control. My goal is to improve the only person I can control – Me.
Maya Angleou wrote about this:
As I started my journey to being happy on purpose, I realized very quickly how little in my life was within my control. I had no power over other people; others will do, think, and feel what they want and there’s little I can do to change or even influence that. I could only manipulate my environment and the things that happened to me to a certain degree.
I started to wonder if I could control anything in my life at all and I realized that I can only control myself. More specifically I had control over my attitude and my reactions to what the world throws at me.
Mother Teresa understood this as well. She said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” And I’d say that served her pretty well! One person at a time she made an incredible difference for the hungry, and her legacy continues to inspire difference-makers today!
The systems that lead to hunger and inequality in this world are huge, and they’re beyond our control. But we can have an impact. We just have to fix our eyes on what we can control, ourselves, and work diligently to live our lives in a more mindful way.
*Quantifying these statistics is challenging. I chose to take this information from the UN World Food Programme, and the BBC. “Hunger related illness” means that an individual did not literally die of starvation, but that his or her immune system was compromised by inadequate nutrition, leading to death from some other illness, like measles.