Week 1 –
So last week was an interesting week to say the least. It started with about 30 hours of travel to Mumbai, India. It’s interesting to me that poverty is relative. I once thought that it was clear what was poverty. My perception has changes after traveling over the years and was really cemented after last week. The truth is again, that poverty is relative.
When I was younger I remember so many immigrants to the US from Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, and many other Caribbean and Latin American countries would come to the US and look down on African Americans in south Florida. This was so annoying to me at the time. How could they come to the US looking for a handout and look down on those to whom they were looking for help and a better life? As a minority myself it was also a sore spot as we already felt as if we had to fight the system and “the man”. Now we also had to feel pressure from new comers. I felt as if we (African Americans) were getting pressure from all side. This prompted some very interesting balancing acts in terms of intercultural relationships. To me it was a delicate dance. My upbringing demanded that I treat all people fairly, while my environment sent a very clear, yet very different message.
The message coming from all sides was to find your small group of like people and stick with them… Well this proved to be very difficult for many reasons. Just a few examples are food, music, and values. It was inescapable. I loved the diversity in food and I’ve always loved music. So this was simply impossible and so I found myself vacillating from one group to the other ever so slightly changing very small characteristics in order to be better accepted. All the while making sure to represent my own culture in a positive way.
So back to poverty thing… Immigrants would judge us and I hated it. My visit to several 3rd world countries has enlightened me to this dynamic a bit. In many of the countries that I have visited, there is no opportunity, there is no running water for all, there is no abundance of food, education, power, etc… In India there isn’t the same support from the central government with things like garbage removal and disposal. So in some not so affluent and even some affluent areas, garbage just piles up. Many Indians couldn’t fathom the life that we have here in the US. There is no welfare system so if you don’t have, you just don’t have. In speaking to one of my colleagues who is from India he carefully explained to me that people go out and work all day, if they find work, for a hand full of rice and a couple of vegetables. Imagine that…. A day’s work may give you enough to eat for a day, maybe. God forbid you have a family and children. They couldn’t imagine walking into any of our grocery stores and seeing rows and rows of food just sitting there. In Brazil they have the “favelas” where people simply have made homes out of scraps over the years. Many are from 2nd or 3rd generation born and raised in favelas. Again, no running water, no electricity (except in some cases where they steal it from nearby power lines), and no plumbing in many of these countries.
If a person in one of the above mentioned situations had the opportunity to visit the US and see the very clear difference in life here they would be breathless and in awe.
So back to the point I made earlier about childhood friends in South Florida who were immigrants. I have a much better understanding of their lack of empathy for our complaining. In the US we have so much and feel as if we have so little. Poverty is in fact relative and certainly a matter of perspective. As Americans we really need to take a step back and simply inhale the fresh air, jump in the shower and feel the hot running water, make a PB&J and “Shut the Front Door”. We have so much and we don’t even realize it. This is why many come from other countries and outperform us in general in studies as well as willingly working the “Three Jobs” doing the things that many of us look down upon. Yes, call me what you want, but its real. We are so blessed here in the US and we, all of us, need to stop complaining and get up and “get’er done”… Seriously…
Looking forward to some hefty comments and discussions this week on this one… Please take a minute to visit the blog and post your thoughts.