I recently took Little E to the doctor for a checkup. My plan was simple. Go to the doctor, get her weighed, measured, and checked out, then drive to the county health department to get her immunizations caught up since we're a little behind on those right now. We got there on time and they were running behind. We had a good half-hour playing in the children's waiting area and she was in a good mood. Then we got back to the room and while she wasn't thrilled to be weighed, we did it and she checked out well.
I'd forgotten that the doctor had wanted to check her for anemia, so we went to the lab for a blood draw. That was traumatic. First they had to find a vein in her arm by checking both arms. Then the vein they tried kept rolling around and they couldn't get it. Finally, after trying to look for another good vein in her arms, I asked if we couldn't try getting it from her heel. Luckily, her heels were still soft enough, so after using a warm compress to draw the blood to her heel, they were able to prick it and squeeze out the blood they needed to do the necessary tests. Little E screamed and cried almost the entire time.
Now what would you do? My husband was watching our other children, so it would have been so easy to just take her to get her three/four more shots. Then we'd be all caught up. If I did it another day, I'd probably have to take all my children with me to the health department. It would be easier for me to do it now. She's still little, she'd be okay, right?
I decided to wait. She probably would have been fine, but why put her through more pain today, just to be convenient for me.
I think we face those kinds of decisions all of the time during our lives. Is what I want more important than what others want or need right now?
I've been thinking lately about how certain problems in our society stem from people deciding that what they want is more important than what others need or want. The first one that comes to mind is the current financial market crisis. The situation is complex, but it seems that at least part of the problems come from people choosing to get what they want instead of getting what they could actually afford. It also comes from people choosing to get what they want by encouraging others to buy what they can't afford.
Another problem is no-fault divorces. I'm not talking about people who have legitimate reasons to divorce, like, for example, abusive marriages. I'm talking about people who choose to divorce amicably because they've grown apart, fell out of love, or some other excuse to break up. It's more difficult when there are children involved because the parents don't know or choose to ignore the decades of research that show that divorce has many negative, long-term effects on everyone involved, especially the children.
Abortion, road rage, child abuse and neglect, intolerance, greed, impatience, rudeness. In fact, I think that almost all problems come from someone or some group thinking that their needs and wants are more important than someone else's. I suppose it can seem only natural. It's built into us from birth. Babies and little children are selfish, in part, to make sure they are taken care of. But, part of the process of growing up and becoming an adult is learning that you are not the most important thing on this planet. That is why we teach children things like how to share, that hurting others is wrong, and how to work together and help others.
I'm reminded of the end of the movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. (If I'm spoiling anything, I apologize, but the movie is over 25 years old. :) ) One of the main characters, Spock, gives his life to save the rest of the ship. As he is dying, he explains to his friend, Admiral Kirk, why he did it. He says, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one."
I think that to change most of the problems in our lives and to find happiness, we need to stop spending so much time focusing on our personal needs and look outside of ourselves to those around us. I believe that this starts with our families since these should be the people that are the closest to us and as such we can have the most impact. After we take care of our families, we can then more easily help others around us at work, church, or in our communities because we have a place where we can rest from our other worries.
Focusing first on our families' needs can be difficult since we see them in all moods and with all their faults. However, it has been my experience that when I focus on the needs of those in my family first, they are happier, I am happier, and many of my needs are actually met. I've also noticed that for myself, I have a harder time thinking of others' needs when I'm really involved in my own interests like reading, checking my e-mail groups, or talking on the phone. I find that when I'm deeply involved in my stuff, whatever it is, and someone comes to me with a need, I'm more impatient, more easily frustrated, and ultimately dissatisfied. I'm recognizing that in order to want to think of others' needs first, I need to be more selective when I choose to do my stuff, so I'm not so distracted by my concerns.
So where is the positive in all of this? The positive is that we can change, that I can change. I don't think I'm being too selfish most of the time, but I would like to be better. I can choose to find ways to think more about others than myself. I can choose to work on my interests at times when I won't be needed to help others. I can choose to focus my energies on helping my family members rather than satisfying my desires more often. I can be happier when I do these things because I've seen it work.