In these days when the rich get richer while the rest of us fall further and further behind, it can be easy for those of us not at the top of the economic heap to envy those at the summit.
I am certainly not immune to dreams of big houses, exotic sports cars and world travel. While I’m aware that the world doesn’t owe me anything and that many of the choices I’ve made in my life have contributed to my membership in the Not Rich Club, I’m sometimes still jealous.
All too often I see all the things I don’t have and lose sight of what I do have. Instead of being jealous of billionaires with private jets and Italian villas, I should be thankful I’m as well off as I am. I should realize that a large portion of the world’s population would gladly switch places with poor little me.
This lesson was driven home to me last week when the following appeared on my Facebook newsfeed. I’m not sure where it came from, but it definitely got my attention. Here it is.
“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 percent of the world. If you have money in your bank, your wallet, and some spare change, you are among 8 percent 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 at all.”
My wife and I frequently complain about our house’s many shortcomings, things we’d like to do to it but can’t afford and repairs we have to make whether we can afford them or not.
We lose sight of the blessing our house truly is. The most important function of a house is to provide shelter. We live in a home with a roof, electricity, heating and cooling and indoor plumbing. Even with all its problems, real or imagined, our house looked pretty good to me recently as I watched news reports of Haitians awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Matthew.
The people, still unable to recover from the devastating earthquake in 2010, have nothing. They were living in makeshift shelters, which more than likely would soon be destroyed.
I have a bed to sleep in, a television to watch and books I know how to read. Not only have I never experienced hunger, I have access to so much food that I’m getting fat.
When I watch news reports from Aleppo in Syria and see images of dead and wounded children, I appreciate how extremely lucky I am to have been born in the United States.
I also get angry. How can a supposedly civilized world allow this to go on? Why do we seem to care more about having the latest smartphone or who wins the Super Bowl than we do about innocent kids having bombs dropped on their heads or whole populations running for their lives?
Read again the words above from my Facebook feed. While I have every advantage listed, the Haitians and the kids in Aleppo have none of them, as do millions of other people on the planet.
So the next time I find myself coveting something I don’t have, I hope I will remember those words and consider myself fortunate. It turns out that compared to most of the people alive today, I’m extremely wealthy.
Too often I take that for granted. Instead, I should wake up every morning in my warm, dry house; roll out of my soft, warm bed; put on clean clothes and shoes; eat breakfast; and be grateful.