There are simply no words to describe how “other” the world is that I encountered recently. I was on a mission trip to a Haitian slum in the Dominican Republic. We stayed a few miles outside the slum, so every morning we rode into the community where our church in America has helped plant a church, school, and medical clinic. Words are insufficient to capture a sense of life in that slum. No paved roads. Little to no electricity. No water or indoor plumbing. No manicured lawns. No lawns at all. Rocks and trash strewn throughout. “Houses” made of sticks and scrap metal. People sit outside all day, trying to escape the heat inside and the heat outside. They sit and don’t work because there are no jobs to be had.
As I was riding with our team one morning, I talked to two of our guys who’d never experienced a world like this before. As we inhaled the sights around us, I tried to give them perspective and said, “Congratulations! You won the lottery!”
Whether we know it (or appreciate it) or not, as Americans we’ve all won the lottery. We have access to an education. We have electricity, indoor plumbing, refrigeration, television, reliable cell service, and healthcare. We assume that this is a right of all humans, but it’s not. It’s a privilege, enjoyed by only a percentage of humanity. Even if we consider ourselves “poor” in America, it’s with the basic understanding that there is a social safety net designed to catch those that fall through the cracks. We have a government that will provide affordable housing to those who need it, free healthcare to those to need it, and food stamps to those who need it. We may assume that this is the norm of the human existence. It is not.
If you’re an American by birth, you have access to things that billions of people on this planet can only dream of. You have access to food, water, healthcare, education and a highly employed workforce. This is not normal. This is exceptional.
Please here this: the purpose of this post isn’t to make us guilty for what we have or what others may not have. The purpose isn’t guilt, but gratitude. Don’t take what we have for granted. Be grateful. Every morning that you wake up as an American, it’s like you’ve won the lottery all over again. Be grateful. Congratulations!