A tale of two countries

Another ‘reason’ to add to the Why In the World file.  In 2008, we were early twenties, self-employed,  parents to 3 little ones and had just bought our first house.  Doing what we were supposed to be doing.  Only it didn’t seem so dreamlike when you got down to the core.

Today, of Americans officially designated as ‘poor,’ 99 percent have electricity, running water, flush toilets, and a refrigerator; 95 percent have a television, 88 percent a telephone, 71 percent a car and 70 percent air conditioning. Cornelius Vanderbilt had none of these.”
–Matt Ridley

The average American spends there lives in a fairly predictable pattern. We spend our lives focused on work – purchasing clothes, leaving the house we are working for thus rarely in, driving a car to get to our place of work, work that we usually do not like, are not happy with. We eat out because we are to tired to cook. We rarely see our children, but for a few hours a day if we are lucky. We don’t ‘have time’ to do all those good things we would like to do – we are in a hurry, always rushing.

‘We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.’- Dave Ramsey

Why?? Who came up with this brilliant idea that we should spend a huge majority of our lives working?? Who decided 8-12 hours a day, 5 days a week was “a good number”?? And why did previous generations agree to it?? Perhaps they lived through the Great Depression and remember never enough, so they worked harder, doing things that didn’t really make them happy so they could try not to be in that situation again. Only we have forgotten. We no longer work to “have enough and some extra” we work to have much more – more house, more car, more clothes, more toys.

Sudanese people live in unspeakable poverty, yet come to the U.S. and remark on how miserable Americans’ lives are. All we do is work. No time for family, friends, or social gatherings.”
–Adapted from the documentary God Grew Tired of Us

Now lets think about the life of an impoverished African family. Common scenario, they spend their days on survival – hauling water, tending to the parched soil in hopes of producing at least a minimal crop, grinding corn with rocks, adding a bit of water to make, well, every meal. Others are fortunate enough to get food rations, at least on occasion. Never enough. But enough to get by. They live in mud huts, sleep on the hard ground, not even a fan to cool them on those hot days. The movie “God Grew Tired of Us” was a great documentary, confirming in many ways what I had read to be true from so many blogs. Always struggling to simply survive, yet all the time in the world to invest in what is really important. Helping those that need help, building real personal relationships with those around. How interesting, that they travel here, recognizing the huge opportunity they have been handed – and yet also recognize that we are missing something. Something big.  India, China, Russia – the same theme the world over.  Living with much much less, less then even our poverty-stricken citizens live with.  Yet, they are smiling, grateful, dare say – happy. 

So what is happiness?? Are Americans happy because we have all the ‘stuff’?? Are they unhappy because they do not?? Would they be happier if they did?? Would we be happier if we did not??  Whats the secret?? I believe the answer lies in finding that balance. 

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A tale of two countries — 1 Comment

  1. I never quite thought of it that way. That all that subsistence level 'survival' (hauling water, tending parched soil etc) was done together, as a family. So it was family time….

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