Thursday, August 23, 2012

First World Problems

Everyone knows the challenges faced by those living in the "Third World;" abject poverty, dismal living conditions, almost non-existent health care. Just getting a drink of fresh, clean water can be more of a challenge than getting a taxi in NYC (though I don't personally know how hard it is to get a cab in NYC). The struggles of those living in the terrible Third World are well documented; just turn on the evening news and you're almost guaranteed to see heart-breaking photos of small children (flies buzzing around their faces) with big, rotund tummies filling the camera's lens.

But we don't live in the Third World. You can turn on the tap, and (generally) safe water comes flowing out. A simple flip of a switch fills the room with light. The grocery store shelves are filled with every manner of treasure, edible and otherwise. Yes, there are starving children in Africa, but it doesn't really seem to impact our daily lives. After all, we don't live in Africa, and our children aren't starving.

We do have problems, here in our First World home. Just ask the Occupy Movement members, or anyone struggling over the income inequality in our country, or someone (like our dear neighbors) who is losing their home, or someone can't find a job (or a job for which they've trained), because of the economic difficulties in our country. These problems are very really (well, income inequality isn't really a problem - it just makes for interesting headlines and effective political fodder), but they are nothing compared to the tragedies faced by so many around the world.

I was reminded of that truth recently. Our power has been going out. It has helped me with some very valuable perspective. I really like electricity. Flooding a room with light at the flip of a switch, pushing a button for climate control, or twisting a dial to get heat for cooking are all wonderful benefits of living in a developed country. And because I've lost the blessing of such conveniences recently, I appreciate them that much more.

Even the health challenges we've experienced over the last eighteen months have been "First World" health challenges! In most of the "undeveloped" or "Third World" infant mortality is significant. Life is harsh and general survival (finding fresh water, having enough food, avoiding ruffians and war lords) is much more important than helping (mildly) crippled boys learn to walk or anxious little girls avoid panic attacks. I'll take the problems I have any day, thank you.

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