I wanted to clarify something from my post a few days ago. I do not equate living in Minot to having tuberculosis. I almost certainly would rather live in Minot than have tuberculosis. I think. It depends on the duration of each, and the success rate of treatment for TB, which I don't know all that much about. But I'm nearly positive I'd take Minot.
My point was the random nature of the statement. Being sent to Minot was a concern at one time, but is no longer up front on my radar, much like the possibility of catching TB. While it would not be a fun thing in my mind, it's not something I generally worry about. So to compare it to the things up front on my radar doesn't quite match up. It's like looking at someone's brown banana and saying "Hey, at least you don't have a bruised apple." Not having the bruised apple, while good, doesn't change the fact that there's still a brown banana to be dealt with, which many will agree is no fun when it comes to eating bananas. The silver lining, of course, is that smushed-up brown bananas make fantastic banana bread. But that's a post for another day.
I think we all can slip into this. When we're trying to help our friends feel better, sometimes we're also trying to make ourselves feel better. It's uncomfortable to see our friends' discomfort. Because discomfort is, by definition, uncomfortable. So to help everyone involved, we try to think of something really, really bad to help put things in perspective. And it is a noble thing to want to help our friends feel better. I just don't think "At least..." is the best way because, as my friend smiller pointed out, it tends to have the effect of minimizing our friends' feelings, sending the subtle (or not) message that they should or shouldn't feel a certain way. "How can you feel that way when when there's all this good stuff over here? What's wrong with you?"
But feelings don't work that way, even for math nerds. I don't get up daily, tally up the good & bad in my life, and see how they compare so that I can decide, logically and rationally, how I should feel that day. At any given moment I could have a myriad of feelings about countless observations and personal circumstances, without them conflicting. Or even several different feelings about a single event. Furthermore, the weight of any situation can vary vastly between two different people due to individual personality, or even within one person depending on mood or relation to other situations and their respective weights.
Which is all to say that when you try to quantify events and feelings to see how you should feel, it all gets very complicated, and honestly (and perhaps ironically?) I think it gives the feelings more power than they deserve. We can drive ourselves crazy trying to avoid negative feelings, but I think in the long run it's more productive to go "hey, I have that feeling," and allow ourselves to remain in the feeling for a bit, even when it hurts (and to throw an arm around our friends when they're in theirs). I think when we allow the bad feeling to come, it doesn't stay as long as it would if we desperately kept trying to ignore it or deny its existence altogether. Feelings like to bang on the door like obnoxious solicitors. They keep coming back until someone answers. Once you let them come in, and sit through their spiel, it's much more convincing when you send them on their way.
Not to get all freaky-deaky, or touchy-feely, or anything...