Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Am I Poor?

I posted a comment about the sense of entitlement that many people under 30 years old feel in the USA today, in 2011,on a blog I follow:  Bookworm Room.  The upshot of my comment was that I could be happy with what I have, since I could see that my situation could be worse, a lot worse.

Maybe I should show you the comment and refer you to the YouTube video that prompted it:

His comments about hauling water at 3:08 brought back this memory I posted in comments:

28 years ago, Dec 1983 the west bank near Ramallah.
I’m getting out of a shared taxi in the village that Jay’s uncle lives in . Jay is a Pali  American, my age about 24. We’ve spent the day at UN womens’ collective for Pali embroidery and folk art and Bir Zeit University for student body election week, and now we’re going to have something to eat at his uncle and aunt’s place just outside Ramallah. It’s a small village, about 45 families.
Jay’s two teenaged female cousins are calling him the moment he emerges from the taxi: Taah hoon!
Look! Come here! Look at this!
They are gripping with excitement and pride of possession an old fashioned water pump, something from about 120 years ago, straight out of a Western movie.
There is a bit of a scuffle as they both try to get a grip on the handle and then up and down and up and down and out shoots a gusher of water.
They are dancing, you’d think they won the lottery.
Congratulations all around, Jay is very pleased for them, and then they run off to the house.
I look at Jay and say: Where were they getting water before this?
He turns around and points in the direction we’ve come from. “At the entrance to the village you turn left instead of right and continue for another 2 minutes. There is a well down the side of the hill.”
“How far round trip?”
“At least 2 kilometers. ”
“How often?”
“Every day,” he shrugs, like what do I think? of course everyday. “Except when someone with a pick up truck would take the kids back and forth, then they could put in enough water for a couple of days. Some times my uncle let the girls have the donkey, when it rained.”
“So I don’t suppose they have sewage pipes, do they?”
He gives me a look.  “No electricity either.”
I think of all the times I’ve had to take a cold shower since I arrived in the Middle East and thanked G-d that at least I didn’t have to the haul the water up a hill and down the road before I bathed.
Flash forward 10 years:
I’m a mother with 3 kids under 5 yrs, my husband works 12 hour shifts, I don’t have any family near by.  I don’t have any “conveniences”: my own car, a garbage disposal, a dishwasher, a vacuum cleaner, central heating and air conditioning, a microwave oven. I’m tired a lot, and I feel sorry for myself a little too often.  Then I remember the gratitude of two teenage girls with an old iron water pump in their front yard. And I thank G-d I don’t have to haul water on top of everything else.
Sue K., another regular reader and commenter,  responded :

I _really_ _really_ _really_ don’t want to go back to living like they did 100 years ago.
Thank you, Michal, for reminding me that we _can_ do it.
I just  _really_ _really_ _really_ don’t want to.
Then I looked at the list of “conveniences” I didn't have then and that Sue K. can't bring herself to live without now and I realized, that the only things on that list that I have today, 18 years later, are the microwave oven and room air conditioners.  I still don't have my own car, or a vacuum cleaner, or a garbage disposal, or dishwasher. I forgot the clothes dryer, no, I don't have a clothes dryer either. I wish I had the car, but I live without it and have gotten to the place where I cope without all those other things.  I guess I should add that I don't eat in restaurants or buy take out. I don't go on vacation. 

Does this make me poor?  Am I underprivileged? 

Since I compare myself to that part of humanity that live without running water or sewage disposal, permanent housing, and electricity, or that only eat once or twice a day, I have always considered my situation good, if not especially comfortable.  My attitude is as long as I have water, sewage disposal, electricity, a refrigerator, and plenty of food, I'm way ahead of most people in the world and have a lot to be thankful for. 

Things could always be worse.

Our Sages teach, "Who is rich? The one who is happy with his portion." 

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