…my first-world problems.

That’s right, I’m grateful. About a month ago, a large tree fell in the back of our property during a particularly windy evening. When I say large tree, I mean at least 100 feet tall. It fell, missing our garden and watering system. The tree also missed the power lines by about fifteen feet. Had it taken out those lines, it would have left several blocks of our neighborhood without electricity. In other words, the tree fell perfectly.

Because I’m sort of a loon, I thought to myself, “How fortunate that no real damage was caused when this tree fell!” The next thought passing through my mind was, “Think of all the stuff I could build with that wood!” I’d been seriously considering building a workbench, maybe a fence, or even a nice table to put in our kitchen. And here, as if by design, a mighty tree came to rest on the ground in our yard.

Inspired by the tree laying in the yard, and our need for it in general, I bought a truck a short time later. I put it to work right away! I dug a hole in the basement, drove to a big box hardware store and bought a new sump pump, gravel and anything else I could toss in the back of my new 4×4 toy. Projects away!

Taking a hint from nature, I muddied up the truck bed by moving all of our raised beds away from the new-fallen tree and closer to the house. We set up a rain collection system so we can still water the garden without sacrificing drinking water. I began making plans for how to effectively dismantle the trunk of the wooden beast to best use its resources. My inner “settler” was coming to life.

Is it really a problem, or is it an opportunity?

Edible forest designs have been flying through my mind. Devising ways to best use the 1.5 acres we have in the middle of a city to benefit both us and our neighbors has been one of the most uplifting experiences I’ve had in a long time. My eyes gloss over with visions of hauling trees to be planted, a truck bed full of compost, of blisters on my hands and dirt under my fingernails.

I’m overwhelmed by the blessings in my life we so often take for granted. It’s a choice, really. I could complain that a tree fell in my yard. I could whine about the work it will take to clean it up. My time could be filled with “poor me” and “why does stuff like this happen to me?”

I’m blessed by the grand design of the universe that I’m in a position in life where this is something that I don’t have to deal with. I get to deal with it. I don’t have to collect rainwater so I have something to drink. I get to collect it to feed my garden. I don’t have to grow my own food to survive. I get to. I don’t have to pay someone to come cut up this fallen tree. I get to use my own tools to put this giant blessing to good use.

More often than not I see my peers complaining about what they don’t have. I hear things like, “If I only made a few more thousand dollars a year I could…”. Or, “If only I could win the lottery, my problems would go away.” (Honestly I hear that one a lot!) The reality is, most of us are in a position to choose what we identify as a problem. Is it really a problem, or is it an opportunity?

When my wife called yesterday to say her car had just died, and the engine was smoking, I could have lost it. After all, I only bought my truck a few weeks ago. We’d just invested time and money in our grand edible forest design. We were counting on her car, which is paid off, lasting at least a year or two more before having to take on two loan payments. It would have been very easy to shake my fists at the sky and shout, “Why me? When’s it gonna be my time, lord?! When!?”

I didn’t have control over it, so why waste energy on worry?

There was a time in my life when that would have been my exact reaction. Sure, there were thoughts of having to buy a new car. Would it be a problem? Not really, an inconvenience at best. At any rate, what point would there be in panicking until the mechanic told us what really happened? Maybe the car could be repaired. I didn’t have control over it, so why waste energy on worry?

Instead of wringing my hands, I chose to be grateful that the car stopped in a parking lot. Imagine what could have happened if my wife had been driving down the interstate at 70+miles an hour? Thank goodness she wasn’t hurt! As crazy as it may sound, I’m grateful that we’re in a position in life where we can afford to buy a car if we have to. Fortunately, the mechanic called ten minutes ago (I’m writing this in real time) to say it was a repair job and he could have it done by tomorrow. How wonderful that we don’t have to buy a new car, and that we can afford the repair!

Each and every day we’re given reasons to be grateful for what we have. It’s up to us to choose our own perspective. Maybe you have a coworker that you think is completely nuts. Instead of complaining that they’re crazy, try looking at them as passionate. Do you have one of those neighbors that always blows their leaves into your yard? Rake them up and use them for compost!

It truly is amazing to see what happens when you begin to view the world from a different perspective. Go ahead, give it a try. What do you have to lose?