Monday, September 15, 2014

In which I am humbled...

I am becoming more and more aware of how very privileged my life appears to be.



I am a white Caucasian woman, living in the United States in the 21st century.
Americans are 4.43% of the world's population, and women are 50.8% of the US population, as of 2013.


I have a post-graduate education.  My husband has a post-graduate education in 3 different fields.
In 2012, "33.5 percent of Americans ages 25 to 29 had at least a bachelor’s degree" (link) and "Among the science fields, women were most heavily represented in psychology, earning almost 72 percent of the master's degrees in 1993, up from 61 percent in 1983; biological/agricultural sciences (46 percent in 1993, 38 percent in 1983); and social sciences (almost 47 percent in 1993). Men were most overrepresented in earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences (72 percent of the degrees) and the physical sciences (70 percent)." (link)


Our family owns 4 vehicles, three of which were bought brand-new.  We have 4 drivers.
"It is true that 95 percent of American households own a car, and most Americans get to work by car (85 percent)." (link)


All of our six children (four girls and two boys) are getting great quality educations at minimal cost to us. 
  • Worldwide, nearly 80 percent of primary-school-age children attend school. In least developed countries, this figure is around 66 percent.
  • The largest out-of-school population is in sub-Saharan Africa, where around 45.5 million children of primary school age are out of school.
  • Of the 67 million primary-school-age children who do not attend school, 53 percent are girls.
  • Worldwide, only 49 percent of children of secondary school age actually attend secondary school.
  • Of the 49 percent of secondary age students who do not attend school, 52 percent are girls.
  • The world’s functional illiterates include more than 130 million children who do not attend school, 73 million of them girls. (link)

We own our house...which is to say, we qualified for a loan to buy a house that was probably outside of our ability to pay for, but the bank decided to take a risk on us anyway.
In the US, 68% own their homes.


We own a dog that we paid entirely too much money for, but which we love anyway.
In the US:
  • 47 percent—Percentage of households (in the US) that own at least one dog
"Pet ownership in the U.S. has more than tripled from the 1970s, when approximately 67 million households had pets, to 2012, when there were 164 million owned pets.
In other words, in 2012, 62 percent of American households included at least one pet.
That same year, according to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent more than $50 billion on their beloved cats, dogs, and other animal companions." (link)
We have clean running water inside our house. 
We have reliable waste disposal.  
"783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. 
6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases." (link)

We have reliable electricity in our house.
  • 18% of global population lack access to electricity, despite modest improvements (link)

We have air-conditioning in our house.
84% of homes in the US have air conditioning.

We have hot water in our house.  The combination of running water and electricity makes this possible.
"The World Water Commission reports that over one billion people have no access to running water. That's about 1/6 of the world." (link)

We have good pantries and freezers filled with good food, and when we run low on food, there are 2 well-stocked grocery stores within a mile of our house.
"A 2009 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 23.5 million people lack access to a supermarket within a mile of their home." (link)
In the US, "In 2012, 49.0 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children." (link)

Every single person in our house has too many clothes and shoes.

We have a library-worth of books stacked all over our house.
In the US, Over 60% of low-income families have no children’s books in the home. (link)

We live in a country where we can worship without fear of persecution.
"...nearly 70 percent of the world’s 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which often falls on religious minorities." (link)

We own more Bibles than there are people in our home.
88% of Americans own at least one Bible.  (link)

We don't fear fine or imprisonment for disagreeing publicly with our government.
In 2012, 195 countries showed:
90 were free (46%)
58 were partly free (30%)
47 were NOT free (24%) (link)

We have access to adequate health care.
According to the World Health Organization, Americans have access to 24.5 doctors per 10,000 population.  (link)


- The 1-10% richest of in any country account for 50% of the country’s wealth (in terms of ownership of capital). 

- In poorer countries, inequalities are even worse - i.e. the rich represent much less than 1%. In fact at the world level, in 2000, the top 10% represented 85% of global capital.

- Hunger and malnutrition affect over 850m people, even though the global food production could accommodate a few billions more on earth (some estimates say up to 12-15 billions). The problem is either with the distribution and diffusion of resources (e.g. lack of roads and infrastructure) or insufficient income.

- Bad sanitation threatens the lives of more than 2.5 billion people, while another billion lacks access to clean water. Water-related problems affect half of humanity.

- About 1 billion people can’t read, or even sign their names. At a time when more and more experts talk about investing in computer literacy, achieving basic literacy in some parts of the world is still the priority for so many governments. Lack of education is a major cause of unemployment worldwide.

- As far as women are concerned, the usual view is that “women produce half of the world's food, work two-thirds of the world's working hours, earn only 10 percent of the world's income, and own less than 1 percent of the world's property” (hopeinternational.org). These numbers count altogether paid and unpaid work (or work that would be paid in developed countries) like child-care and elder-care as well as helping in the fields or small family farming.

- More than 350 of the richest people on earth have more money than some 50% of the rest of humanity. This is not even about redistributing resources. This is an issue with the system at large. (link)

It is terribly humbling to me to think about where we sit socio-economically, just because of when and where we were born.  When I hear from friends residing in other countries about the very real persecution, the abject poverty, the health and other needs that are easily treatable in our country, I am again reminded that I had nothing to do with the good position in which I find myself.  

As I researched to write this post, I was convicted over and over again about my propensity to complain about what are really inconveniences...
...the flat tires on my car are reminders of my ease of transportation.
...the sore mouth after tooth extraction reminds me that I DO have access to great dental care. 
...the work that I need to do to sell this place that has been home for 4 years reminds me of the blessing of a roof over our heads. 
...my excess weight that tells me we have more than enough to eat.  

So, I have seen all of these "Thankfulness Challenges" going around on Facebook, and a couple of years ago I did a Thankfulness Month series.  This year, I am going to spend the next while praying for those who have less than me, while being more thankful for what I DO have.  

How about you?

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