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My Momma, Sandy May, wore a Mickey Mouse watch, and it wasn’t because she was a huge Disney fan.

She wore it, she said, to remind her to keep her problems in perspective. Most of the problems we face are “Mickey Mouse problems,” she said – what today we would call “first-world problems.” A dead cell phone, school projects, leaky faucets, office politics – they’re all Mickey Mouse problems: a pain in the neck, but nothing to get exercised about.

Momma understood perspective, and it kept her and our family on an even keel (mostly).

There was a girl in junior high who pretty much hated me; She would pinch me, say mean things to me and elbow me, and I had no idea why. When I complained to Momma about her, she advised me to “Give the girl grace. You don’t know what she’s going through; you don’t know why she’s being mean. Maybe someone is being mean to her. Maybe she’s jealous of something you have or what you are that she doesn’t think she is.”

And, of course, she was right. Now that I’m an older, wiser adult, I know this is true. Most bullies don’t bully because they enjoy it. They do it because they’re going through something themselves. We need to respond with compassion, not anger.

And, ultimately, as unpleasant as it was to be on the receiving end of her taunts, it was still a Mickey Mouse problem. Just like when the boy I wanted to go to prom with in high school had no desire to go with me. Or the time I made a “C” in college (after a lifetime of making nothing but As and Bs). Mickey Mouse.

It’s all about perspective.

Big problems are wondering where your next meal is going to come from. How you’re going to pay the rent. How you’re going to beat cancer. Or what to do when you learn – as Momma did – that you’re not going to beat it after all.

Don’t let Mickey Mouse problems take up too much of your emotional energy. If it doesn’t matter in 5 years, don’t give it 5 minutes.

Michelle May O’Neil is an entrepreneur, lawyer, and motivational speaker. Her most recent book, “Wisdom from Momma,” is a guidebook from, and homage to, her mother, Sandra Verdene Crouch May. It contains life advice from Momma, whose spirit and tenacity guided her and her family through their most trying times.

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