It’s true. You’ve won the lottery (so have I), and I think today’s as good a day as any to celebrate. We’ve won the lottery of the womb. Out of nearly 7 billion people on this planet, you and I were born into a world of great privilege. We pulled the handle on the slot machine and hit the lucky 7s. Jackpot.
If you don’t quite feel like a lottery winner, well maybe it just takes a little reframing. Sure, we all have our problems, but today, let’s focus on why you and I are some of the luckiest SOBs on the planet.
You are so lucky because:
- You can read. Did you know that only 80% of the world is literate? The ability to learn and communicate through the written word is an incredible gift, but not everyone gets to experience it. In many parts of the world, figuring out how to find enough food for dinner every day takes priority over figuring out how to read a book or write an essay. Consider yourself lucky that you can even read how lucky you are right now.
- You can read this website. Just the fact that you’re reading this website means that you’re sitting in front of a computer that you own (or a computer that someone pays you to sit in front of!), that’s connected to the internet where you can access the world in a place that’s warm enough to allow you to concentrate and learn something. Did you know that automatically puts you in the top 72% of the entire world? What if you’d been born in the other 28%? Maybe you’d have made it out. Maybe you wouldn’t have…
- You can decide not to read this website. It wasn’t that long ago that we were told what we’d read and how we’d participate in society. It wasn’t that long ago that deciding what we’d do for a living, who we’d hang out with, and how we’d live our lives was an unheard of luxury. In many parts of the world, it still is. Whether or not you’re religious, consider yourself thoroughly blessed that if this article is at all upsetting to you, you can go away right now and never come back. No one will ever give you a hard time about it.
- You can brush your teeth safely. There are over 1 billion people on this planet that still don’t have regular access to safe drinking water. This is a problem most of us overcame more than hundred years ago, but for various social, economic, and political reasons, millions of people every day dream about being able to brush their teeth at all, let alone with water that won’t make them sick. Working on a big, meaningful project is easier to do when the main resource that keeps you alive isn’t killing you and the people around you.
- You can travel freely. Besides a few states that don’t care to play nicely with the rest of the world (and a few that are unfairly discriminated against), you can pretty much go anywhere in the world that you want and no big brother is going to ask a lot of questions. This is unprecedented freedom compared to just a few generations ago when leaving your home country was one of the biggest decisions you’d ever make in your life.
- You know what’s for dinner. As the famous Dr. Maslow pointed out, it’s pretty damn hard to fulfill your dreams when you’re still struggling to fill your belly. If you’re still reading this, I’m going to guess that if you’ve ever missed a meal, it was probably either intentional or a temporary inconvenience. It absolutely baffles my mind, but there are even people in the United States that go to bed hungry every day. There’s no shortage of food—just a shortage of solutions to get food into people’s mouths. If there’s food in yours, be grateful for that.
I don’t mean to be too brash today, but damn it, we really are so lucky. Yes, we all have our own problems —every human being on Earth suffers. It seems absurd to me that someone living in the United States or Europe could go hungry, but I know that it does happen, and that is incredibly sad.
The difference for most of us, though, is that our problems exist on another plane from the rest of the world—a plane where neither outcome, success or failure, affects our quality of life as drastically as it does for others. We’re free to take the risks that will improve our lives because our most basic needs are met. It’s too bad that has to be a luxury.
All the same, I don’t recommend wallowing in pity or feeling guilty about it. I don’t think the answer to the world’s suffering is to adjust our standard of living downward. Instead, I think it’s to recognize just how lucky we are and use our plentiful resources to bring others up.
The best thing you can do to fix the suffering in the world is to cultivate a sense of gratitude for the privileges you’ve been given and utilize them in a way that fulfills you and helps others in need. By focusing your thoughts and energies on all that you’ve been given instead of the things you lack, you can develop an attitude of gratefulness and self-empowerment.
Developing a sense of abundance is what empowers even the least privileged to make a difference in their world. Charity and goodwill are not responsibilities reserved for the super-rich; they’re for you and me and anyone who recognizes that they have something to give.
So today, wherever you are in life and whatever unfortunate circumstances you might have endured, spend the next five minutes thinking about just how lucky you really are, and what you could do to make someone else feel the same. I promise you won’t regret it.
If you’re able and willing, here are a few causes I think are worthy of your time and attention:
- The Girl Effect – All the research seems to show a somewhat ugly truth. Men are more selfish with their money than women (don’t shoot the messenger). The Girl Effect works to get charity aid directly into the hands of women and girls in developing countries, who are the best chance we have at bettering entire families.
- Charity Water – Scott Harrsion used to be a night club promoter. Then he got tired of that and built the biggest water charity in the world to bring clean, safe drinking water to those who desperately need it the most by establishing wells in poor communities all over the world. Clean water is the basis of all prosperity.
- Heifer International – These guys attack the old “give a man a fish/teach a man to fish” parable the best that I know of. Rather than handing out meals, Heifer International gives livestock to impoverished families and teaches them how to raise and farm them. Then, the livestock have offspring that get passed onto neighbors. Slowly, a stable food base develops.
- Kiva – Pretty much everyone’s heard of Kiva by now because they rock at what they do. The idea of a small business loan is still a foreign concept to most parts of the world, but Kiva, a “micro-lender,” helps solve this problem by collecting tiny donations from lots of people and dispersing loans to local, would-be entrepreneurs in poor countries where getting a loan to start a business and improve your family and community would be impossible otherwise.
- Habitat for Humanity – These guys build houses; simple as that. Even better, though, is that to benefit from one of their homes, you have to help build it. When your own sweat and blood go into the house you receive, you’re a lot more likely to take care of it and help build up your community.
- Mary’s Meals – If you spend ninety percent of your waking hours looking for enough food to stay alive, how much time does that leave you to go to school? Mary’s Meals works throughout the developing world to provide relief meals at school where children can get the food they need to survive as well as the education they need to help bring their families out of poverty.
Don’t forget: I’ll be releasing the improved PDF format of this big travel guide on Tuesday, March 1. It’s titled Instant Adventure: Valor Not Included and it’s completely free, so don’t forget to stop by and pick up your copy.
Image by: Mimi_K
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