Dealing with "First World Problems"

My friends and I have a saying that we thought was unique -- until we discovered that it already has a popular Twitter hashtag and YouTube video.

"First World Problems."

At one time, we thought we’d create a blog based off the concept and make millions that we could donate to charities to save lives. But we weren't the first to think of the idea. Woe is us. Maybe our disappoint is, in itself, a drop in the bucket of #firstworldproblems.

Working at World Vision can be extremely inspiring at times, yet expectedly mundane at others. It is, indeed, an office. Though our office supports the work of thousands of staff around the world who daily see and feel the effects of transformed lives, I feel a slight disconnect while sitting at a computer or in meetings all day.

Really? That quote is 142 characters long? We use Lotus Notes for email? The only conference rooms left don’t have windows in them? I just got “upgraded” to Windows 7 and the shortcuts are different? My Print Screen button doesn’t work anymore, and I have to open up an application to take a screen shot? The readily available, clean, hot water from the coffeemaker is only lukewarm? Should I Skype that girl who I think is cute? The closest printer is out of ink, and I have to walk five steps farther to the next one?

I suppose it’s important to remember that “humanitarians” are indeed “humans,” too. We get preoccupied by what’s in front of us.

A picture of Joventus sits at Jonathan's desk at World Vision's U.S. headquarters.

So, here’s what I do: Sitting in plain sight at my desk is a picture of my sponsored child, Joventus.

Joventus is why I’m here. Is it crazy that I donate to the very organization I work for? Do I really believe that much in what I do? Am I convinced that Joventus’ life is being transformed and renewed in Uganda because I sit at a desk and write dozens of emails each day?


With a degree in electrical engineering, I’m not at World Vision because I’ve always dreamed of it (in fact, I hadn’t even heard of the term “nonprofit” until two years ago). I’m here because Joventus needs me.

And you know what? I need him, too. He keeps me grateful. He gives me purpose and connects me with what’s real in this world -- not that my world isn’t real, but there’s a whole other reality within our own that needs help.

His face reminds me that some of my struggles are really just #firstworldproblems.

Want to connect with a child who needs your help? Want that connection to help remind you of the blessings in your own everyday life?

Sponsor a child like Joventus today. It’ll help you keep a healthy perspective on First World Problems -- while giving a new perspective of hope to a child in need.


    Hopefully, you and Joventus will meet someday and you can learn of each others joys, struggles and hopes.

    Thanks Sala! I would love to meet him someday. It'd be great to connect more personally than through letters and pictures! -Jonathan, WV staff

    While I understand and agree with you that we who are more fortunate do complain about the silliest, and most insignificant things, let us not turn a blind eye to the fact that in the "First World" there exists cruel poverty, hunger and disease as well. It angers me to think that many are under the impression that everything here in our world- blessed though most of us are, is "Pie In The Sky" There are areas in the Appalachians, and US Inner cities that are just as bad as there are in Africa- let us not ignore that.


    I agree, and let us not forget that there are people in this 'first world' that want to stamp out food stamps and aid to our own people. That assume that just because you are poor, you should be given the 3rd degree in regards to getting aid (drug testing the poor just to root out some low level offenders).

    Let us also not forget about the quality of "food-product" that is given to our youth in our schools that contributes to obesity, diabetes, heart conditions and a host of other issues.

    Sorry, I meant to say Ed.

    Your post reminded me of a blog post I made a couple of months ago:

    Last week I went out to dinner as an end of the semester treat for working on the school newspaper. It was a lot of fun, but I ate way too much. I was stuffed, and immediately after I had to perform in a choir concert. Just a note, full stomachs and singing don’t really mix. I complained, and a friend caught me off guard when she jokingly stated, “First world problems.” What? But that’s exactly what it was, a privileged problem. Who was I to complain about having a full stomach when others are starving? It was humbling to say the least. Really, it was like a slap across the face. How much to a complain about when I should be thanking God instead? It’s so easy to look at things negatively rather than recognizing the blessings we’re constantly surrounded with.

    Over the last couple of weeks I’ve heard that phrase over and over, and frankly it offends me. People say it jokingly, when really it’s a serious matter. Sure, it’s beneficial to recognize these privileges, but to laugh at them is not. I hear these things and it makes me think about all of these privileges I don’t even recognize. As I said earlier, it’s really humbling. But beyond that I think about those who aren’t as lucky, and how much we should be reaching out to others. This little joke of “first world problems” is reality, as least here in the first world. But this joke shouldn’t just point out the problem and laugh, but recognize everything that surrounds this problem. These problems are nothing in comparison to third world problems. It really puts things in perspective - who am I to complain?

    But ultimately, how can we change things? How can I change my own perspective? How can I learn to recognize my privileges rather than these ‘problems’? And how can I help those less fortunate?

    Thanks for the reminder; we're all so blessed, and we can't forget that we're called to share those blessings.

    Thanks for sharing that with us, Haley! It's great to know that other like-minded people are out there taking efforts to remember and help those who are suffering in our world. God bless, -Jonathan, WV staff

    Evidence of 1st-world problem in a growing number of African evangelists, typically charismatic/pentecostal, who are coming to America as _missionaries . . . .

    Hi Jonathon,

    Thanks for sharing this. I enjoyed reading it and can definitely identify with how easy it is to get bogged down in the mundane and forget why we do what we are doing. Even from where I work in the field (based in Honiara, Solomon Islands) it can happen from time to time. Thanks for the reminder to look beyond that.



    That's a great perspective to share, Alice... that even when you're in the midst of actively changing lives... there are always mundane tasks to be done. In fact, that's one of many reasons I have an immense respect for all of our staff (and those with other organizations) who work in the field: many times, things aren't "exciting" or "fun." It's hard work. But you all stick it out because it's worth it. Thanks! -Jonathan, WV staff

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