July 15, 2010

The Luckiest People In The World



Sometimes, we forget what we have.

When we get annoyed about small conveniences not being available, when we get impatient with technology, when we get frustrated that something doesn't work.

We forget that we (and by we I include you, because just by being able to read this blog post on a computer that is most likely yours, with an internet connection at home that you most likely pay for yourself, and simply by being able to read, you too) are among the luckiest people in the world.

I remember having this conversation with my roommate, Kate, at university. We had everything we could ever need - we lacked nothing, not food, shelter, electricity, hot water, clothes, education, freedom, social access; and most of what we could ever want - computers, fancy clothes, shoes, vacations, dinners in restaurants, pints of beer in pubs, trips to the cinema, trips to Europe.

That alone made us luckier than probably about 99% of the world.

But we decided that maybe we were luckier than even that top 1% of people who had more than us - mansions, luxury cars, home theater systems, boats, islands, the staff of Cartier on 5th Avenue on speed dial - because we actually knew the value of what we had.

Sure, we were still twenty-two, so our parents helped us out with all our necessities. But we had both worked, and gotten paychecks, and understood the value of working for money and the satisfaction of being able to spend it. But we didn't have unlimited money. So we had to make choices. Not sacrifices. Not, if the kids get new shoes than we can't buy meat for the rest of the month. But simple, either/or choices.

If I buy that new dress, I'll have less money for eating out this month.

If we get an expensive cable package, we have to cut back on extravagant groceries.

If I want to go to Europe this summer, I can't go out dancing every Saturday this term.

By making these choices between what to spend our hard-earned money on, we understood what each was worth to us. And for this, we considered ourselves luckier than even the Paris Hiltons and the Olsen Twins of the world, because we knew the value of what we'd earned.

I'm a very positive person. I see the glass half full almost all the time. Not that I go around vomiting sunshine; I'm not naive, in fact I'm fairly realistic. But I suppose that I manage to extract the bright side of situations that others would let discourage them. Maybe because this idea that I'm one of the luckiest people always sort of stays with me. Who am I to complain about the subway being late, or the internet connection being slow when I'm someone who has access to a subway and to the internet.

Which means that sometimes I have very little patience with people who are constantly complaining about their lives - I got stuck in traffic; There was construction and I had to take a detour; Today I had to sit through a long boring meeting at work; The air conditioning in the office isn't working today.

Because if they actually had something real to complain about - My kids aren't vaccinated and there are malaria mosquitoes everywhere; They're raping and pillaging the village next to ours and we're next; I'd love to vote for the candidate I want, but I can't, because people are threatening me; My country has never had democratic elections; I don't have food to feed myself or my children, and I have to walk fourteen kilometers each way to get drinking water; As a woman in my country I can't go to school, vote, drive, have a job, or leave the house without a male relative - they would beg to have back the privileges that they had been complaining about.

I'm not saying I wish people were more grateful for what they have, although I do. But I wish people were more aware of their place in the world. Of what they have and how unbelievably fortunate that makes them. Of how many people would - and do - kill, to have access to the things and privileges they have.

And maybe, every once in a while, think about giving something back.

For more information on the top-rated charities visit:
The American Institute of Philanthropy

For other ways to give back, see my December post:
How To Find Your Inner Philanthropist

p.s. Watch this video. It's hilarious, and pretty much encapsulates what I'm trying to say. And Conaan is in it!


Nicole Z said...

This is such a wonderful post!! I love your honesty and yur optimism. I'll admit that I find myself complaining (although not all the time) about some of the luxuries I have - this post threw me off my semi-high horse. Thanks so much for sharing and for humbling this girl. I hope it's ok if I link this post in my next post - I think it's something worth being reminded of and sharing :) Have a great week Julia!

Keenie Beanie said...

Very well said, Julia!

Amanda said...

I went to a youth conference with my church in junior high, and in the planners for the weekend they had the first few pages taken up by those statistics, including the one about if you condensed the earth's population down to 100 people and kept all the statistical ratios the same, what would it look like?
It was a super important thing to have at the forefront of a bunch of teenagers' minds...we talked about it all weekend and to this day when I feel like complaining about my lack of money I look at the (small) handful of change on my dresser and stop it. Funnily enough, the fact that I'm in law school (a huge luxury, I'm aware) doesn't make it click for me, but those spare coins do, every time.

Dorkys Ramos said...

Great post and hilarious video! I've taken quite a liking to Louis CK since hearing about him earlier this year.

I sometimes forget that life's hardships aren't the worst things in the world and that I should be grateful that I even have those things I'm complaining about. I do try to keep things in perspective, but I can admit that I need A LOT more help in that department. I'm really grateful and blessed for the things I have in my life and that I'm healthy and enjoying what I do, but when something trips me up, it takes a bit more work and reminders to get back into my "Life is amazing" mindset.

This post goes great with a tweet I wrote two days ago:

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain." ~Maya Angelou

So true :)

Dorkys Ramos said...

Oh, and I'll be linking to this post in today's Happy Friday link roundup.

Lucia ♥ said...

Very well said! People (including me) do complain about insignificant things a lot, without being able to realize how lucky they actually are.

The video is amazing! See this is how you can make people listen to you. With humor :) I hope that every person to see the video will take a second to re-evaluate his/her life and be more gratefull for what they have :) I know I will <3

Julia said...

So, I'm getting a Master's in Technology and I have had quite a few professors show this to us. I love this video. It's hilarious and true. The things around us are amazing, and so many of us are complaining instead of embracing the wonders and being happy for what we have!

Messy Jesse said...

WONDERFUL!!!! Amazing and soooo utterly and disgustingly true! I say disgusting because we are a sad, pathetic little generation with unthinkable technology we take for granted each and every day. I am in love with this post! I am going to share it as much as I can. I especially love the video clip.

We are truly blessed by all the little things we take for granted that other people in the world do not have a chance to grasp.

much love,


p.s. I am giving you a round of applause at my computer.

Morgan said...

LOVE this post. So true and a nice reminder. :)

Jennie said...

Wow - amazing post!!!! I am definitely feeling very convicted right now. Thanks so much for sharing!!

Lost in You said...

I really enjoyed this article. Amazing writing! Keep it up.