The Privilege of Complaining

We are reaching the end of our two and a little years here in Nepal and I’m all full of mixed emotions.  I know I should be debriefing. I know it would be healthy to process, work through it, blog it out, but I’m not there yet, I just can’t even. So,….. that is not what this post is about.

I have never felt more like an American than I have living in another culture and with other ex-pats, then I have celebrating Thanksgiving.

Last year when we celebrated Thanksgiving, (and by celebrated I mean faked as many American foods as we could) I’m pretty sure my Didi thought it was some sort of animal worship or turkey sacrifice.  I’m guessing the turkey and cornucopia decoration I put up looked about a strange to her as the blue-skinned, multi-armed goddess pictures in Nepal look to me.  Even my son’s Australian teacher was surprised by the presentation our son gave on the pilgrims for his ex-pat class. “Oh wow! I didn’t realize there was a story behind it.  I just thought it was some pre-Christmas eating you guys did”, she joked when I picked him up after school.

Most countries have a day to mark the inception of their nations, or celebrate their service men and women and even days to reflect on past wars, victories and defeats.  But, without doing the proper research, and noting the exception of Canada, I’m guessing many countries don’t have anything like American Thanksgiving, a day specifically devoted to a meal, vaguely based on the pilgrims historic meal, where Americans, some of the most privilege people in the world, are supposed to be grateful for people, and events and things in our lives.

It has become a little cliché to rattle off a list of relatively minor disappointments and then cover for it with a #firstworldproblems hash tag. #Firstworldproblems has become a self-deprecating shorthand for acknowledging one’s blessings while apologizing for feeling anything but grateful and happy for them.  In the combination of reflecting on giving thanks, in light of some of the news headlines coming from the U.S. recently, and observing the evidence of my obvious privilege in living overseas,  I realize the real privilege I have as an American, and the one used most often without regard, is complaining.   Some complaining is justified, as in pointing out an injustice, but often it is a red flag for lack of gratitude.

So I will admit to some of my daily complaints in the spirit of thankfulness;

- Walking my children to school a 1/2 mile in opposite directions

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- When the internet is down (again)

- When our plane always seems to get delayed

- When we get tired out from carrying all the groceries

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- When my children’s get misspelled or mispronounced

- When I have to explain what my job is

Living overseas, forces me to acknowledge every day the advantages I have, strictly drawn from the accident of being born an American.  It makes more ashamed of my #firstworldproblems and more humbled.  I pray my response to my privilege is more often gratitude, humility and generosity and less complaining.