This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. We live in one of the richest and most prosperous countries in the world. However, there are some who do not understand just how well they have it. A few years ago I was in Iraq and I was talking with a man who was born and raised in a little town on the western end of Iraq not far from the Syrian border. He had never traveled more than 20 miles from his place of birth. In fact during this conversation he was only a few blocks from the house he was born in.
This conversation took place around Thanksgiving of 2005. I was explaining to him our concept of the Thanksgiving Holiday. He found it odd that we would isolate a date to be thankful each year and wondered if we were not thankful at other times of the year. Contrary to popular believe “Thanksgiving” is not a holiday celebrated around the world. I tried to explain the concept to him and told him it was just not this single day that we were thankful. He laughed at my explanation and said from what he had seen most Americans were the most unthankful people he had ever met.
I found his actions odd and asked him to explain them to me. This is a paraphrased rendition of what he said.
“Americans expect things to be given to them and if they are not given then they feel violated. Americans make a thousand dollars a week and still consider themselves as poor. Their arrogance blinds them to what they have because they are never satisfied with what they have; they always deserve more.” This man made the equivalent of about $1000 a year; he could not image making $1000 a week.
His explanation was much more elaborate than what I just put here, but virtually everything he said was true. We do “expect” things and often feel no need to work for it; if we want it then obviously we deserve it.
If you make $10K a year you make more than 84% of the world’s population. If you make $50K a year you make from than 99% of the world’s population. I know the first thing someone out there is thinking is, “Yea, I make money but things here cost way more than other places.” Sorry, not true. Some things are more expensive for sure, but most items are not in other developed (or for that matter un-developed) countries. I could make comparison to some of these items, but I suspect if you are the type of person who has read this bit to this point then you probably already have a web-link open to make your own comparison; you can start with the price of gas if you like.
This Iraq man I was talking to was the same man who believed the pictures he saw of grocery stores in the US were nothing more than propaganda. There is no conceivable way there could be that much food in one location, let alone in several locations in a single town. And if it were true then truly Americans were the richest people in the world. From his perspective of life that is something that is just not possible. Most of you will never be able to see things from his perspective.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see with my own eyes what poor is. No social programs to pay you money if you refuse to work. In many countries, if you do not work, your only recourse is to be a beggar on the streets.
Be thankful this Thanksgiving Holiday. And be thankful for something more than just a day off from work. Put your outlook in perspective and you will see we have so very much to be thankful for. Try to imagine you existence from the perspective of someone who is really poor, but I suspect you will not be able to do that because we cannot imagine what poor really is. If you are thankful for the “things” you have then you have missed the point. It’s not about possession of things, but rather a possession of an understanding of just how things are in other places and an appreciation for how things are here when compared.