Editor's Note: Today, I'm so happy to welcome Erin Franco to our CatholicMom.com family of contributors.  Erin, also known as "Gabriel's mom", parents a toddler and is anxiously awaiting a new baby in September.  She'll be with us each month to share her reflections on life as a young Catholic wife and mom.  For more inspiration from Erin, visit her Humble Handmaid blog.  Welcome Erin!!  LMH

"Eat your broccoli, Erin--there are starving children in China!"

Growing up, I remember my poor mother used the Starving Children in China routine to try and coerce me into eating some hated vegetable or swallowing my antibiotic (usually a particularly nasty battle). I was a generally sweet, mild kid—except for when it came to food (or taking medicine). Try to make me eat something I didn't like? Good luck, sister!

I actually like broccoli now (although antibiotics still are an occasional problem), but I’m realizing, somewhat ashamedly, that I revert to my little girl self when I balk and pout about eating the “broccoli” of the little inconveniences and irritations in my life.

Something that has been on my heart lately is the disparity between my “problems” and the problems of those all around me. While I’m snapping at my husband at dinner because Kroger was out of sour cream, people in my own community and in the world community are dealing with hard stuff.

For example, our neighbors, an older couple with grown children, just finished the wife's first 6-week round of radiation treatments for breast cancer.

My dear friend lost her husband to cancer just after Thanksgiving, and is now facing tough financial, personal and parenting decisions with her three little boys--the youngest of which is just 8 weeks old.

I read an article a few days ago that reported that my own city, Houston, is known to be a top international hub for human trafficking.

The “problems” I’ve been giving so much of my thought and energy to lately seem frivolous, and--dare I say--willfully indulgent at times. How shamefully silly it is to fume over getting stuck in traffic or to agonize over how to deal with my 13-month-old’s newfound habit of throwing everything on his plate onto the floor.

It’s high time I put my life’s little problems back where they belong: in perspective.

How dare I--or any of us--elevate insignificant problems such that we spend more time being angry, or worried, or stressed, or irritated at small inconveniences or irritations than we do making the world, and ourselves, a little bit better for others? How dare I spend more time in a day thinking about faults I see in others than I do in prayer for them and myself?

Without adopting an extremist, don't-take-anything-seriously, don't-give-problems-the-reasonable-healthy-attention-they-deserve mindset, I feel called to start living my life with much, much more perspective.

It really hit me this past Christmas season the significance of Jesus being born in a dirty shelter for animals, while just steps away people of Bethlehem stayed inside their comfortable homes. Even in His birth, Christ draws our attention to poverty and suffering right outside our own front doors.

I don't want to be like the people of Bethlehem, who closed their doors and hearts on a desperately needy family. Perhaps they were worried about their other guests being irritated with them for asking them to give up a room for this little family. Perhaps they were worried about running out of food for a party. Perhaps they just thought that somebody else would help the little couple at the door.

There are Mary and Josephs so, so close to us at all times. We need to be open to doing all that God calls us to in our state in life to be aware of and to spiritually and materially help those in need around us.

I plan to start eating my broccoli—the tense situations, inconveniences and stresses of my very, very blessed life--with a profound new sense of gratitude, and a new commitment to living in perspective.

Copyright 2011 Erin Franco