We are spoiled. And by “we” I mean Americans. I know that’s a gross over-generalization, and I know there are certainly exceptions to that statement. With that said, I do think that as a culture, as a group of people, we are pretty damn spoiled in comparison to some other cultures. There was a discussion about this at work just last night amongst myself and two other nurses I was working with. One of them had spent a considerable amount of time in Bolivia and I’ve spent some time in Guatemala. Granted, not a lot of time in Guatemala, but two trips each approximately two weeks in length. Enough time to begin to get a feel for the culture. We agreed that we both came back to the United States feeling very blessed and spoiled and no longer taking things for granted we had taken for granted before. Things like clean drinking water, enough money to put a roof over your head or afford basic transportation, things like that.
Two examples from my trips to Guatemala stand out in my mind to make my point. During the first trip I was speaking through an interpreter to an older woman and she was telling me that she had pain in her neck often (most likely from carrying heavy baskets on her head frequently) and approximately two years earlier there had been an American medical team there in town and they had given her some small white pills that really helped the pain. She was hoping this American medical team could give her some more. I found out that those little white pills she’d been waiting approximately two years for were ibuprofen. Yes, just ibuprofen. She didn’t have any money or transportation to the pharmacy to buy them. Even if she’d been able to get the pharmacy, she wouldn’t have had the money to buy them. Ibuprofen. Something most of us give no thought to picking up on a quick trip to the store while you’re out running errands. But to this woman, it was a big deal to get these pills.
On my second trip there was another example of things we take for granted. A boy and his grandparents traveled for two full days to get 100 miles from their home to where we were setting up a clinic and doing some surgeries because the boy needed an eye surgery. They spent most of the two days walking. That was the only way they could get to us. A 100 mile trip is not a big deal to most of us. A two hour trip, roughly. But to this family it was a real ordeal.
We really are a pretty spoiled culture. As are most citizens of “industrialized” countries. But we sometimes forget about millions of citizens of third world countries who fight for things we take for granted. There are so many things we see as necessities that they see only as luxuries.