By being born in a Western country you are a winner in the lottery of life. You may not have won the jackpot like say, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Hollywood’s Jennifer Lawrence, but you are still a winner—BIG TIME!
You turn on a tap—you get water. Hot water if you want.
About a fifth of the world’s population do not have enough water to drink, and a third do not have enough for basic hygiene.
One flush of a Western toilet uses as much water as a person in parts of the undeveloped world uses for a whole day’s washing, drinking, cleaning and cooking.
You go to the supermarket and buy food for a week—or a month—or trot off to the mall to eat pizza or hamburgers until you’re full.
About one eighth of the world’s population never get enough food to stave off the pangs of hunger.Most of us Westerners live in comfortable, temperature-controlled homes where we can lock our doors and feel secure—homes large enough to provide everyone with his or her own room.
A far cry from what most citizens of this planet live in—a single room about the size of one of our bedrooms with maybe ten people crammed into it. No electricity of course—and no toilets as we know them.
The ‘room’ might be constructed of grass or mud, canvas or cardboard, or squashed tin cans. Or maybe a mish-mash of all these materials with a few sticks of wood thrown in—nothing that would withstand a decent blast of wind or a determined thief with a stout club.
Even when we suffer natural disasters like floods or fires here in the West, the victims of those tragedies remain far better-off in their temporary shelters than the permanent dwellers of so many impoverished countries in their huts and shanties.
It is almost impossible for us Westerners to fully comprehend life without adequate water, food and shelter. These are things we simply take for granted—like the air we breathe.
For many countries, poverty is just the beginning of its population’s misery. Heavily armed bands of so-called ‘freedom fighters’ rampage through defenseless villages, burning and looting, killing, raping and maiming the inhabitants, knowing full well they’ll never be punished for their actions.
What can we do about all this? Not a great deal as individuals. We can send money to poor countries, but who knows where that money will end up—more than likely in the Swiss bank accounts of their rulers I suspect. Most undeveloped nations have the potential for wealth, but the majority of their leaders would rather support their own lavish lifestyles than the people they rule.
Sometimes though, when my day is not going as I think it should, because some idiot scratched the paint on my car in a parking lot, or I stepped in dog poo on the sidewalk—in other words when life isn’t treating me exactly the way I’d like it to treat me—I find it helpful to engage in a reality check.
I try to put myself in the shoes (or bare feet) of someone born in a poor part of the world—say a small village somewhere in Africa. It’s not easy for us to understand the misery of those living hopeless lives in violent, impoverished countries.
But once in a while, perhaps we should try.