A Pledge to Give Thanks Beyond Thanksgiving

Another year, another Thanksgiving. Time to see mine and the girlfriend’s family. Stuff myself with turkey. Watch the Thanksgiving parade, the Lions lose, and the Cowboys win. Recover from yet another hangover. Take a break from the busy season at work. But, why am I doing all of this, exactly? Because I have a LOT to be thankful for, and should appreciate how good I have it more than once a year.

I’m thankful for my family and friends always being there for me. While I know people who have lost parents or grandparents, or whose parents divorced, my parents live together, and although unfortunately one of my grandfathers did pass recently, my grandfather, both grandmothers, and parents are healthy and living within a 20 minute car ride from me, and I see them on a weekly basis. I am in a happy and healthy relationship of 3 years, living with my girlfriend. We are taking a trip to the Domincan and Disneyworld right before Christmas. I am blessed with having the best friends ever…kind, honest, intelligent individuals who legitimately care about me, who stand up for me, and who comfort me in my failures and celebrate with me during my triumphs. True friends who are there for me in need, whether just to talk to when I’m down, provide advice, or give me rides to interviews when I did not yet have a car, or drive me home at 2 AM on a Saturday night so that I do not blow even more money on a cab or get a DUI. Friends honest enough to tell me when I fucked up, or make mistakes, or am being an idpt, even when I don’t ask to hear about it.

I am fortunate to be living in the United States, where unlike in other countries, I can state my opinions without fear of being jailed or killed. I do not need to fear concentration camps, like in North Korea just for, saying the wrong thing, or get in trouble for this, like in China or Cuba or Iran or Venezuela. While yes, this country absolutely ahs the continuing dark skeletons of racism blemishing it, and sure, I have experienced anti-Semitism, anti-immigration, and racism, these are isolated incidents; in this country, I am judged for my intelligence, personality and character, rather than my nationality, religion, or skin color, like my parents and grandparents were in the Soviet Union.. Though at times it appears like the economy here is falling apart, I feel so fortunate to have literally any type of entertainment right at my fingertips. I am lucky to be living in such a diverse society, where I can be exposed to virtually any type of culture. In too many countries, people do not get the opportunity to meet people different from them, and as a result just go by stereotypes that their government or parents or teachers say, making them xenophobic and ignorant. But not here. I am lucky to have friends from Germany to Ghana, from Ecuador to England, from Columbia to Cuba, from India to Israel to Iran. I have white, African, Asian, and Native American friends. I have Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and atheist friends. I can eat falafel from an Arabic eatery for breakfast, enjoy lunch in Chinatown, have a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant, and then go out to an Irish pub, where I can meet Brazilian, Lebanese, Italian, French, Swedish, and gorgeous women from all over the world. The overwhelming majority of the world cannot do these things because they don’t live in the USA. Why do you think that so many people want to live here? Why would the Mexicans risk their lives trying to get in here in 120 degree trucks or Cubans risk drowning in tiny boats just to get here? I am in eternal and irreparable debt for the many opportunities that it has given me the thankful for what this wonderful country has done for me.

I am thankful to be a member of the 21st century, where technology does amazing things. Just imagine. Only 10 years ago, we didn’t have Facebook or smartphones. Only 20 years ago, we didn’t have cell phones or the Internet, or HD TVs. Only 50 years ago, there were no TVs, and no color or digital cameras. Only 100 years ago, most people did not own cars. Planes could not yet fly across oceans. Look at us now. We can get to anywhere in the world in a single day just by hopping on a plane. We can go skiing or hiking or to the beach, in just a day, by driving there. We can save hours of research by looking things up on Google or on Wilkepedia. We can share our photos on Facebook, chat with friends about evening plans, and find out where the parties are at. We can tweet about big sports plays while the players are still celebrating them on the field. Only my generation has the ability to be watching 4 soccer games online, while watching the college football game, while catching up with work stuff on a Saturday afternoon, while talking to our parents on the phone, as we are texting our friends about evening plans. Each and every one us are so fortunate to be alive TODAY!

Most of all, I am thankful that while 40 million Americans, 14% of the country, live below the poverty line, not only do I have a roof over my head and know where my next meal is coming from, but have a car, money for entertainment, cable and the Internet. I am blessed to have access to top (but extremely expensive) healthcare, clean water, and adequate sanitation. I am fortunate for having access to a decent education. Not only did I go to one of the top high schools in Massachusetts, but I went to a private math school and had a personal English tutor for the SATs. My parents and grandparents had enough knowledge to help me with my homework and explain things when I was confused. I found just enough money to go to one of the top and most expensive universities in the world. I now have a degree in Business Administration and Economics. I consider myself educated, up to date with daily news, and as having a strong understanding of the current economic, political, and social environment.

As I grew up, met diverse people, and educated myself about the world about me, I began to understand how privileged I truly am. Yet, while I live comfortably and are surrounded by “first-world problems”, do you know that:

· There are 925 MILLION people in the world, 1/7th of the population who go hungry…who legitimately cannot get enough food, and are at risk of dying from starvation?

· 80% of the ENTIRE WORLD’S POPULATION lives for UNDER $10 per DAY.

· Out of 2.2 billion children in this world, 1 BILLION live in poverty…every OTHER child in the world.

· 22,000 children die PER DAY due to poverty. 27–28% of children in the world are either underweight or stunted.

· 1 BILLION people in the world have no access to clean water; 2.6 BILLION suffer from basic sanitation.

· An estimated 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, with 3 million deaths in 2004.

· Every year there are 350–500 million cases of malaria, with 1 million fatalities.

· 121 million children in the world do not go to school.

· Almost a BILLION people in the world still cannot read or write.

People, this is just SAD. When I see numbers such as these, how can I not be thankful for what I have? These appalling facts really put things in perspective, don’t they? As a matter of fact, if you are reading this right now, you probably are not part of these unfortunate statistics. What have I done to deserve to be not here, which these poor people did not do? What have you? We were born into the right families, into the right countries, under the right economic conditions. We got outright lucky. How can we not be thankful for being part of the privileged class?

So what can we do now that we are privileged and born into the right families, countries, and conditions? What can I do? Sometimes when I feel of how much stuff I waste, I feel guilty. While billions of poor people go hungry, and some die, how many times did I see others throw away food from my plate at restaurants? While billions of miserable wretched have no water, how many times did I just stand in the shower for too long just because I felt like it? While some people have no clue where their next money will come from, how many times did I buy drinks that are too expensive, go to clubs that weren’t even that good, or blew money on stuff that I almost did not use or wear or need?

You know what? It’s OK. I’m going to continue eating too much, taking long showers, and blowing money partying. I’m too greedy, too egoistic, and too privileged to do to otherwise, and so are you, probably. But here is what I will do. I shall donate 10% of my income each year to charity. UNICEF. The Red Cross. Children Without Borders. To reduce poverty. Improve access education. Fight racism. Help the vulnerable, the poor, and the sick. It is the least I, an egoist who wastes money, takes long showers, and wastes food can do. Perhaps it is not enough, but it is a start.

A couple of last thoughts. It pisses me off some much when some rich moron babbles about giving countries less aid or cutting money for political reasons, or blackmailing countries into voting a certain way. It infuriates me that rich countries give loans and usually expect weaker, poorer countries, to repay them. Did you know that “For every $1 in aid a developing country receives, over $25 is spent on debt repayment” or that “The poorer the country, the more likely it is that debt repayments are being extracted directly from people who neither contracted the loans nor received any of the money”? I didn’t either. Now we both do. Our priorities are so messed up. Ponder this chart, for example.

Global Priority

$U.S. Billions

Cosmetics in the United States

8

Ice cream in Europe

11

Perfumes in Europe and the United States

12

Pet foods in Europe and the United States

17

Business entertainment in Japan

35

Cigarettes in Europe

50

Alcoholic drinks in Europe

105

Narcotics drugs in the world

400

Military spending in the world

780

Global Priority

$U.S. Billions

Basic education for all

6

Water and sanitation for all

9

Reproductive health for all women

12

Basic health and nutrition

13

Yes. That’s right. We spend more money on cosmetics than on education. We spend almost as much or more money on perfumes, pet food, and entertainment EACH on water and basic nutrition. But most of all, we love our weapons and our drugs. How fucked up are these statistics? Look, I’m not advocating cutting military capabilities; a strong military is the core of any successful country, after all. But maybe, just maybe, if each man up and sacrifice just a little bit more and put our heads together, we can all contribute to making this world a little bit better and a little bit fairer.

All statistics are from

http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store