I came across this picture on Facebook and I love it! I do a lot of writing about how bad things are in the developing world, but that’s not the whole story. There are a lot of wonderful things happening in the developing world that all of us here in America would do well to emulate. In many ways our opulence is our greatest enemy. Let’s take a look at what I mean by that.
First, if we’re not careful, our opulence will make us complacement and greedy. Our entire economy revolves around creating an artificial need for more and different stuff. The clothes you wore last fall are outdated and need to be replaced! Your lip gloss color is so last year! Your car is perfectly functional but it’s not fancy and European! You don’t have a smart phone? That’s practically criminal! Run right out and buy something better! If we buy into this nonsense, our whole lives will center on attainment. We will always be grasping for the next new thing and we won’t pause to be thankful for what we already have. Even worse, we’ll fail to give to those who really are in need because we’ll be too busy satisfying our imaginary need.
Second, our opulence provides us with so many gadgets and devices that we risk sacrificing our quality of life to be “plugged in.” Many kids would rather play video games on an iPad than make a fort in the woods. They can’t identify one single species of tree in the forest, but they know how to navigate all 26 levels of their favorite video game. I guess parents are okay with this because a child is “safer” in the living room than in the woods. The younger generation is missing out on a connection with nature that is absolutely essential to becoming compassionate and centered. Observing the interaction of animals, plants, rivers, oceans, forests and people reveals a world that is both incredibly resilient and heartbreakingingly fragile. It is a world at which no one child is the center. While each of our individual actions affects the world, the world does not exist solely for any of us. It exists for all of us, so we had better figure out how to share.
There’s a lot wrong with the Third World, but there’s a lot wrong with the First World too. It’s my wish that when I write or talk about people living in poverty it doesn’t come off as being from a place of superiority. The First World doesn’t have all the answers. We’re all in this together.