When I got married, many of my peers had an expectation of a good life ahead of them. It never occurred to any of us that we would not have houses and cars, big TV’s and wonderful vacations. Of course we would. Our parents had those things and so would we. Every generation heads off into the world with expectations that include what their parents had. We all failed to realize our parents worked many years for those things and it was ridiculous for us to feel entitled to them without also working and saving. Life might have taught us some valuable lessons in reality but my generation embraced credit and now a personal debt is an expectation. No-one waits for anything anymore. Immediate gratification was something we taught our kids with every purchase we made. So now, we have grandkids who, like us, feel they have a right to everything their parents have, and their disconnect with the hard work that provides those things is almost complete. Enter the sense of entitlement we all complain about today.
We now have a generation that is oblivious to how privileged they are. We might have laughed at the kids from the farm who were sheltered, or those from strong religious backgrounds who had no idea what the world was really like but that lack of awareness is nothing compared to now. Kids today are very sheltered despite access to the internet and travel being so open. People go to a resort in Mexico and think they have seen Mexico. They have no understanding why so many Mexicans risk everything to cross into the US, even if they will live in constant fear of being discovered.
Those of us living in first world countries live lives of such privilege, it is unimaginable to the majority of the world. That majority would see even the poorest among us as having enviable lives. We don’t see these things as privilege. A house has no value if it does not look really nice. If it is not in a nice neighbourhood, if it is small, if it is not painted, is not filled with modern conveniences, etc . . . we don’t see it as a luxury to have a house. We don’t value our education or make the most of our time in school. We hate school, we complain about the fridge full of food, that there is “nothing to eat.” We think we have a right to our privilege. We think we deserve more.
I have shared these before but they are worth considering again.
If we could reduce the world’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, the demographics would look something like this:
The village would have 61 Asians, 13 Africans, 12 Europeans, 9 Latin Americans, and 5 from the USA and Canada
50 would be male, 50 would be female
25 would be children, 75 adults – 9 of those would be over 65
5 would speak English, 95 would not
75 would be non-white; 25 white
67 would be non-Christian; 33 would be Christian
80 would live in substandard housing
16 would be unable to read or write
50 would be malnourished and 1 dying of starvation
33 would be without access to a safe water supply
39 would lack access to improved sanitation
24 would not have any electricity (And of the 76 that do
have electricity, most would only use it for light at night.)
8 people would have access to the Internet
1 would have a college education
1 would have HIV
2 would be near birth; 1 near death
5 would control 32% of the entire world’s wealth; all 5 would be US citizens
48 would live on less than US$ 2 a day
20 would live on less than US$ 1 a day
If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world.
If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
If you woke up this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week.
If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering.
If you can read this message you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.
And finally, the words of another experience of life, a childhood that is not about going to the mall and whether you will get the new iPhone or not. It is not about hair extensions or a new video game – it is about life and the reality of far too many people’s lives. There should be millions and even billions of these types of video from people who have lived these lives but sadly, they never made it into adulthood. When you wake up to bombs falling and you see your family killed in front of you, it makes for a very different attitude. Happiness is not measured in “things.” These people have no expectation of privilege or sense of entitlement. They see life itself as being a gift. They take nothing for granted.
Yeonmi Park has not found freedom so that she could hang out at the mall. She is using her freedom to speak out, to help raise awareness of her people and the issues they are facing so that others might also be saved.
Look around you. There is so much more going on in your world than what movie is playing at the mall. Enjoy your lives but please do not make your life about such irrelevant things. Your life exists as it does because other people sacrificed for it. Other people got involved and cared about what was going on in the world.
Now it is your turn. Who are you going to be? What are you going to do to change the way things are and to make this world a better place for the generations that will come after you? I know you are all so incredibly capable, much more than we ever were. Please don’t waste your life on the things that will never feed your soul or help another human being. Right now you are the ones who can make a difference. In a blink of an eye that privileged life could be gone. How can any of us justify our lives of such comfort and privilege when so many are suffering? All it takes is for each of us to look around and see the world and to do what we can in our own circumstances. Don’t limit your life to dreaming about which level of your computer game you are going to get to – consider the impact you can make on this world. There are real “damsels” to be saved and real “monsters” that need to be stopped. Armchair or life? It is a choice you make.