say you're broke? The cupboard is bare? Be grateful
you've got it so good
By Kathryn Kemp
October 23, 2006 | We live in a world that is out of
balance in almost every way. Wealth, education, health,
and overall life chances are only accessible to a small
group of people, while the rest experience life in a
way that many could never imagine.
In 2001 Fast Company magazine presented an updated
version of an idea that shows just how unbalanced the
world is. If the world were shrunk into a small village
of 100 people, all of the ratios in the world still
present, this is what it would look like:
-- 60 Asian, 12 European, 13 African, 9 Latin Americans,
1 Oceanian, 5 North Americans -- 50 male, 50 female
-- 80 nonwhite, 20 white -- 67 non-Christian, 33 Christian
-- 20 people would possess 89 percent of the world's
wealth -- 25 would live in substandard housing -- 17
would be illiterate -- 13 would suffer from malnutrition
-- 1 would die within a year -- 2 would be born within
a year -- 2 would have a college education -- 4 would
own a computer.
It's interesting to me that white, middle class and
mostly Christian Americans working on getting a college
education, are a minority. How many of us realize that?
How many of us see how lucky we are?
We live in a variety of "bubbles" where the world
is only as big as we see it. It starts here, in our
college student bubble. The whole world revolves around
what we're doing now. Those of us who are native to
Utah, have that bubble and experience life in the unique
surroundings of the LDS Church.
Beyond that we are still in the U.S. where wealth,
opportunities and success are advertised and displayed.
Even traveling out of the country, how many people go
to Paris, London, and Rome where their lifestyles match
our own? More than go to India or Africa I'm sure.
I'm not blaming anyone for being the way they are.
We are blessed to have the lives that we do, but it's
easy to get caught up in them and forget that there
are other people in the world who are not so lucky.
There is no way for any of us to truly know what those
people go through each day. The best way to understand
is to look at the facts, and see how completely opposite
our lives are.
Education:We are college students. We are getting
an education and have been since we were 5 years old.
There are thousands of people like us around the country.
But there are millions of people not like us around
There are almost one billion adults in the world who
are illiterate. There are 115 million children in the
world who are not in school because they have to work
to help support their families. Less than 10 percent
of individuals in poor countries enroll in universities
as opposed to 57 percent in rich countries.
We are a lucky minority.
Wealth: A common complaint and excuse is that we're
"poor starving college students!" I've said it before,
and I know many others have. We joke about it, but a
lot of us really can't afford a lot of things and work
hard to pay for the cost of going to school.
But no matter how tight our budget is, we can afford
a lot more than the 5 billion people living in developing
countries, most of whom have to live on less than one
dollar a day. Even just having a little money in the
bank, some cash in our wallets, and some spare change
somewhere puts us among the top 8 percent of the world's
Hunger: We may complain about eating toast, macaroni
and cheese, and Top Ramen all the time, and we miss
our home cooked meals, but we never go hungry. We're
getting the nourishment that we need to stay healthy.
That is not the case for many people, especially children.
A May 2006 article by Joanne Clements said, "A Unicef
spokeswoman said poor nutrition contributed to the deaths
of 5.6 million children each year -- the equivalent
of 10 children a minute.
Be grateful for macaroni and cheese.
Health: We have access to doctors, dentists, specialists,
counselors -- almost any sort of professional health
care -- at the drop of a hat. Women who are pregnant
can have professionals attend them. We have been immunized
for many illnesses and diseases, and can receive treatment
and medication for others. We can even be treated for
a cold. Our drinking water is safe, and our living conditions
In developing countries almost none of those conditions
exist. Pregnant and birthing mothers receive little
or no professional help, causing 30 to 40 percent of
infant deaths or the death of the mother herself. Diseases
that can be prevented and treated cause widespread death.
Over 1 million people die of malaria each year. Tuberculosis
is easily prevented, yet is the most common contagious
infectious disease. Three million people die from waterborne
diseases. Over 700,000 children under age five die from
diarrhea -- and that is just in India.
In children, the main cause of blindness is a Vitamin
A deficiency, while the single most preventable cause
of mental retardation and brain damage is iodine deficiency.
How sad that a little discomfort and inconvenience for
us is a killer for so many others. It makes me inclined
to hate going to the doctor.
The list of differences between our lives and the
lives of people in developing countries could go on
and on. Most of these facts and statistics come from
YouThink! at youthink.worldbank.org">youthink.worldbank.org,
but they can be found everywhere. Not just by looking
at the hundreds of statistical reports, but by simply
looking. If we pay attention, we can see it.
It's hard to imagine that a life like that really
exists when we are so far away. But it does exist and
we need to be aware of it. Because we can't solve a
problem if we don't really know what it's all about.
I don't expect the world to change over night (although
wouldn't it be nice if it did). Likewise, I am anything
but perfect when it comes to doing anything to help
the people who are suffering, so I am not here to preach.
Instead what I hope for, for myself and for others,
is that we simply recognize that there are billions
of people in the world and we are among the select few
who have the best there is.
I hope to put a spark of gratitude in a person's thoughts,
because from there anything can happen. Maybe a spark
of gratitude can lead to a spark of kindness, and if
we have enough sparks, we can create fireworks.