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Real-World Fixes to First-World Problems

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Craig and Marc Kielburger, founders of Free The Children and Me to We, introduce us to First World Problems and their Fixes.

You gotta First-World problem? We gotta Real-World fix.

Last month, we came clean and admitted that yes, we have First-World problems. Of course we're not alone. Aside from the #firstworldproblem ubiquity on Twitter, we've gotten plenty of unsolicited advice for this Real World Fixes column -- our attempt to insert some perspective into the trivial complaints of the privileged.

The following scenarios are based on true events, relayed to us:

"One pillow is too low and two is too high."
"I can't hear the TV over the crunchy snacks I'm eating."
"My new microwave doesn't have a popcorn button."
"It's only 9 a.m. and my Blackberry battery is at 5 per cent."

As founders of Free The Children, we've witnessed some of the world's most pressing social problems. We're often asked how we deal with the culture shock of translating our experiences in the developing world into our First World Moments, while we live with the absurdity of Wi-Fi withdrawal or losing socks in the laundry.

Well, we wrote a book about it. My Grandma Follows Me on Twitter...And Other First World Problems We're Lucky to Have was just released.

In our first article post last month, one online commenter summed up the spirit of the book perfectly: "As Canadians, we've already won the [geographic] lottery. We have an obligation to those who didn't fare as well." This is the philosophy behind our First World commentary. Because with privilege comes the responsibility to help others. So on that note, here are this month's Real World Fixes.

Laugh and be grateful.

First-World Problem: My social life is so demanding that I need bigger pages in my Moleskine Weekly Notebook.

Real-World Fix: There's at least one person in your school or office who feels like they have no friends. Use your superstar social status for good: say "Hi" to the kid or co-worker that everyone else ignores, or better yet, invite them into your group. If your Moleskine is full, you've got enough Cool Capital to spare.

First-World Problem: My $6 gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, soy-based muffin was not baked fresh this morning, so I took one bite and threw it out.

Real-World Fix: The city of Toronto alone throws away 210 million kilograms of food every year; that's equivalent to the weight of 35,000 African elephants. Before you toss old food, consider creative ways to salvage it; blackened bananas go great in banana bread, mushy tomatoes in pasta sauce, and rotten eggs for that co-worker who keeps stealing your parking spot.

First-World Problem: My horoscope is totally depressing.

Real-World Fix: If you know you're a stubborn Taurus or a fierce Leo, consider yourself lucky. We've met children in rural Thailand, and in developing communities around the world, who don't celebrate birthdays because they don't know the date of their birth, or because they can't afford birthday presents. Instead, they mark a day for Everyone's Birthday with song, celebration and community.

Every year on your birthday, why not do something special for a loved one -- or give a random gift to a total stranger in honour of Everyone's Birthday. And be sure to get your mom a present; she did all the work.