Talk about bad days. I woke up after only four hours of sleep to find my cell phone charger broke and my phone was almost dead. On top of that, it was rainy and gray outside and I missed my bus. I had a weekend full of work and conferences ahead instead of the Border War and fun with my friends. So I made the decision to be depressed and angry. Yeah, I actually decided my life was so harsh and terrible that I had a right to be gloomy and irate. Then, gosh darn it, I had to go to class and gain some perspective. Don't you hate when that happens?
We were watching a PBS special, which almost always proves to be a good opportunity to catch up on some sleep, and I was convinced my day was only going to continue going down hill. Then, within just a few minutes, I was counting my blessings instead of the curses of my "bad day."
I think it all changed when the video started talking about young women in India– women my age or younger-burned alive with kerosene because they had yet to produce a male offspring, or because they had the audacity to actually use contraceptives so they could avoid adding an eighth or ninth child to their already impoverished brood.
These women were being treated in hospitals so crowded they had to share a bed with one or more fellow burn victims; victims of nothing but wanting to have a say in their own body's reproductive functions. Once healed-if ever healed-these women would not have a chance to go back to a loving home. Instead they had to face the reality of being an outcast to their own families and husbands, abandoned by the very people who had been their world before they had the "arrogance" to want more for themselves and their family. As I watched a fly crawl across the charred skin of one the victims, a missed bus didn't seem like such a tragedy.
If the victims of such atrocities in India were not enough, I then traveled to Africa, where the poverty was so out of control that a group of children, some without clothes, were frolicking in a trash dump, their closest thing to a playground. Not exactly the childhood I saw growing up in the grand old US of A. Suddenly, a dead cell phone battery wasn't even classifiable as a problem, let alone a reason to be angry and depressed. I was so overcome with emotion I turned to my almost comatose classmates next to me and said, "Do you know how lucky we are to have been born here?"
No matter how bad we have it, we are so utterly privileged to have been born in the U.S., or to have moved here from places unknown. Sure, we all have our own day-to-day problems and tragedies, but it is all relative. The poverty we see in our own nation, although bleak, is nothing compared to real poverty, the poverty experienced in a country like India or Kenya. The idea of a welfare system in these nations, and others like them is nothing but a fantasy; it is certainly not something individuals feel they are entitled to, unlike some of the impoverished in the U.S.
In fact, the poor in the U.S. live like royalty compared to the impoverished in other nations; here we have homeless shelters, there they don't even have shelters, period. Don't get me wrong, I feel like those below the poverty line here in the U.S. need to be taken care of-I have volunteered at many soup kitchens-it is just that poor is a relative term. The fact remains that every single U.S. citizen is blessed and lucky to be here.
Now, I know the facts I just went over are nothing you haven't heard and read before, but they are a reminder; a little perspective for those of us who get so caught up in our own world we forget the plight of others. The next time you feel like the world around you couldn't get any worse, take a second and look at the world that feels so bleak. I bet within a few moments you'll be thanking God-or whomever you thank-for being born in the USA.
Jake Blumberg is a technical journalism and political science double major. His column runs every Monday.