A little perspective truly goes a long way. The military allowed me to experience multiple cultures around the world, to gain knowledge most Americans would never know. My first trip outside of the U.S. was to Bosnia and Herzegovina (via Hungary and Croatia); the first time I saw war-torn villages with the locals trying to make a living really blew my 19-year-old mind.

I grew up in a housing project in North Carolina, Fairview Homes, and moved into my grandmother’s house the summer before my freshman year of high school. The water heater broke sometime during that summer and we could not afford to replace, it was just going to be a little inconvenience for a few months. Those few months turned into four years. Needless to say, there were no showers; we would heat a large pot of water on the stove and pour it into the bathtub. I would wash my hair in the morning under the cold water, it was a great way to wake-up. We still had a roof over our heads and we never went hungry. I worked at a Chinese restaurant during my first two years of high school and McDonald’s during my last two so I always had a little money in my pocket.

Even though we were doing ok, my teenage mind always thought it could not get lower than this. I gained so much perspective during my first deployment, it taught me a valuable life lesson in that there are always those that have it worse. The next year I spent seven months in Honduras. during this time, we would give medical services throughout the rural communities. Usually, these events lasted for two or three days; we would have a staff of physicians, veterinarians, and dentists. The lines for the veterinarians were always longer, even though these villagers truly needed medical attention. They wanted to ensure their livestock, their only way of making a meager living, received medical attention before they took care of themselves. These villagers lived in huts with no doors or windows, drink from a filthy river, it had a short life expectancy due to ill health. Graciously, this taught me to be humble and thankful for everything that I have, to never take anything for granted. My time in Iraq and Afghanistan only strengthened those values.

For a few hours today, I waited at my daughter’s school for registration, and I heard many rumblings from numerous parents about how this ruined their day. Meanwhile, a little over 500 miles away in Ulvade, Texas, many families, to include 19 who lost children, have had their lives tragically altered just a few short weeks ago.

It’s about perspective. Stop complaining about waiting in line, that expensive latte you bought this morning, or a server working themselves to the bone who forgot your roll at a restaurant. Focus on what matters. As your children graduate, move to the next grade, or collect end-of-year awards, never forget that tomorrow is never promised, and we only get one chance at life.

Take care of each other, we are all on this flying rock together.