It was 4:22 p.m. yesterday when my blood pressure shot up. My head began to pound. I felt the urge to run to my car and drive very, very far away from my house in Toronto.
I had just returned from my annual summer vacation with my family. We had stayed in a little cabin in Quebec. There were bike trails. There were brie, baguette and almond cookies from the outdoor market. There were deer in the tall grass each morning, as I sat with my tea, watching the sun rise over the mountain. There were no deadlines, errands or logistical challenges. And absolutely no traffic.
When it was time to pack for home, I handled everything just fine. The eight-hour drive home didn't seem as long as I'd feared. I was impressed with the calm I exuded while approaching the city, even as the temperature rose and the traffic backed up. Even the muddy jumble of unpacking was no problem.
Then yesterday afternoon, I turned on my computer for the first time, to get my head around the week ahead. That's when the pressure hit. My work inbox contained new assignments, in addition to the work I was already behind on. My personal e-mail contained reminders of the logistics I needed to manage first thing today, as I got two kids to day camps in different parts of the city before heading to work.
But here was the clincher: the coach of my older son's competitive soccer team has just scheduled a game on the opposite side of town from my work, our house and the kids' camps, with an arrival time of 6:00 p.m. tonight -- through Monday rush hour.
That's when I had my mini-meltdown. Even if I drove and worked all day, I could still barely make it happen. Even if I arrived at work late, and left early. Even if dinner was a drive-through meal, eaten in the car. The cost of gas and takeout were a whole other stress, as we had already overspent on our badly needed break.
I couldn't believe the contrast between life on vacation and life in the city. How do I make the rest of the year work, I asked myself? I was acutely aware that I was blessed to have a job to go to, a job I love. Fortunate to have a partner with whom I can share much of the load. And lucky to have the funds to pay for day camps, and activities such as soccer.
But sitting in my kitchen just hours before vacation ended, none of these facts served to lower my blood pressure.
It wasn't until 9:30 this morning, sitting down at my desk at World Vision, that I finally got a grip. I logged into our photo and story database -- from which I gather some of the material for my writing assignments -- to see what was new. What had been happening with families around the world while I was on holiday?
Here's what I found:
In the time I was away, these two children in Gaza lost both their home and their brother. I had all of my family around me on holidays, and the incredible luxury of a rented cottage. I returned to find my house in Toronto safe and well.
As I stress about catching up with a week of missed work, Saraswati has been plugging away to catch up with years of missed schooling. She visits a World Vision drop-in for street children in India.
While I'm wishing away my son's soccer match for this evening, these children in Armenia are rejoicing that World Vision has built a soccer pitch in their community. They no longer have to play on a small piece of rocky land.
In Zambia, Cossy has been eating roots to survive, as I grumped through the packing of my children's lunches last night. "I don't remember when my family last ate two meals in a day," his mother shared.
In the Philippines, children have been helping their parents maintain this vegetable garden through World Vision's Cash for Work program. Much of the country is still rebuilding after last November's typhoon, and that will continue for years.
While I curse my constantly ringing cell phone, children such as Yohane in Mozambique mine for the raw materials that produce our jewelry and components for electronic devices.
While I was marveling at how much further my kids are able to ride on the bike trails this year, this tiny baby was born prematurely in Uganda. The clinic where his mother brought him for a checkup is low on staff and medicine.
It's amazing how these photos and stories helped me get some perspective. Yes, my life here is chaotic and can be full of pressures. But mine is just one story in a world full of challenges. And I am lucky to have the resources to help reduce someone else's challenges.
It doesn't cost a lot to make a huge difference. I can make ethical shopping decisions that help keep children out of the worst kinds of labour. I can support a child and maternal health program to help newborn babies to grow up healthy. Or I can sponsor a child, so he or she can have just a few of the benefits my children enjoy.
My challenges are real, but they're small by comparison.
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