I’ve been in two minds about publishing this post.
Afraid of negative feedback, people thinking I’m preaching something I know nothing about, or showing off that I have travelled, and so on… I haven’t written a really opinionated post on my blog yet, so I’m a bit anxious to see how this will go down. Oh well, here goes!
The other day at work, a colleague was in the kitchen making his lunch. The cleaner was beside him, emptying the dishwasher. (Yes, we are privileged enough to have a dishwasher at my workplace.) Anyway, the colleague takes a bowl out of the cupboard and his face turns sour. “Don’t you ever clean these properly?!” He spits at the cleaner. The cleaner looks down, clearly ashamed. He sheepishly takes the bowl from the colleague and starts to wash it up by hand. “Can’t get the staff these days,” the colleague says as he walks off back to his desk.
I was standing a few feet away and smiled at the cleaner, in what I hoped was a “I’m really sorry for that rude man’s behaviour” way, but probably came across as a sarcastic dig.
The cleaner is of Asian origin and doesn’t speak English very well. He’s already at work when I arrive at 8am, and probably leaves a lot later than me (5pm) considering the state of the kitchen at the end of the day. He continuously empties and reloads the dishwashers on the kitchens (there are over 30 floors in the building), as well as restocking the fridges and cleaning the surfaces.
The colleague, might I add, is no higher up in the company than I am (apart from that he has a permanent contract, unlike mine which is temporary) – and, whether or not this is worth noting I am going to say it anyway – he is English. You know when someone does something that makes you feel embarrassed on their behalf? Yeah, I got that. I felt momentarily ashamed to be English because of him.
Why am I telling you this story? It’s not to do with English knobheads, or the fact the cleaner didn’t speak English.
It’s because in that 30 seconds, I saw an insight into a deeper issue, which made me question something.
Is it really that simple for us – who live comfortably in the first world, with our well-paid jobs and cleaners to clean up after us – to forget to be thankful for what we have?
I’ve also read a couple of things on social media recently that have made me a little bit angry. First I saw a status update by a traveller complaining about the standard of food on a paid-for business class flight. Then I read a hotel review that was negative, simply because the hotel’s wifi wasn’t working for a couple of hours.
I get it. Social media, blogs, websites like trip advisor etc are THERE for people to publish their opinions on. That’s the purpose of them; they are spaces to share the unedited truth about what you think. Which is exactly what I’m doing here I guess…
I think a big part of the reason I have become more aware of the importance of being thankful for what I have is mainly because of travel. (This is the part I unwillingly come off all snobby and big headed and hippy-ish and “ooh look at me, I’ve travelled!”… If you knew me personally you would know I am not like that at all. At least I don’t mean to be.)
I remember in Cambodia, at the end of the track for the bamboo train, there was a small village where James and I spoke to a family – a mother with three children. She told us about the children’s school – it was only a 1km walk away, but I didn’t ask her why her kids were at home on a Tuesday morning. It quickly became obvious that her family were so poor that it was better for her children to go without an education, in order to earn a few extra dollars for the rice they would eat that evening.
After visiting the Taj Mahal, which was swarming with wealthy tourists, we got into the taxi and drove out of Agra, weaving between locals and mopeds and cows and chickens. The poverty we saw filled my heart with helplessness. These people live in houses as big as my kitchen, they share their living space with farm animals, they walk to the end of the street to have a wash in the village tap.
When we took a taxi to the train station in Delhi at 4am, we noticed lots of bundles of material on the sides of the roads. “What are they?” James whispered. Then we saw a foot, a hand, a face. People were wrapped up in blankets sleeping on the sides of the roads. I felt ashamed of my wealth, the fact I had so much money that I could just up-and-leave my own country to go to look at poor people and take photos with my expensive camera and then go back to my nice warm bed at the end of the day.
This said, I would urge anyone planning on traveling to third world countries to do so, as it such an eye-opener into how people who aren’t as fortunate as us live. India is one of the poorest, most poverty-stricken countries in the world, and I know that (unfotunately) poverty is never going to be abolished. I get that, and that’s not the point of this post.
I can by no means preach anything – I am still so ignorant of so many issues in the world and I still have a lot to learn. But I guess I am just becoming more aware of things in life.
We live in a society where we have forgotten to appreciate the wealth we have in life. And by wealth I do not only mean the figures in the bank.
By wealth, I mean education: I am writing this post and you are reading it.
By wealth, I mean health: I am physically and mentally well enough to travel.
By wealth, I mean freedom: I am free to follow my dreams without being tied by religion or oppressive values.
And by wealth, yes, I do mean money. I am wealthy enough to leave a stable job to travel. I am wealthy enough not to have to worry about what I will eat this evening. I am wealthy enough not to have to sleep on the streets. When I publish this post, on my iPad, I’ll get into my comfy, warm bed and sleep peacefully until morning.
When did we all become so obsessed with our first-world issues?
Taking the perfect selfie, getting more followers on Instagram, complaining that our food isn’t up to scratch on our paid-for flight. We need to remember to take a step back from our privileged lives and realise how lucky we are. How wealthy we are. Be that in monetary terms or in terms of education, health or freedom.
The point of this post is not to tell you to go and see the poverty in this world (although I do recommend it).
The point of this post is not to preach that we are all selfish, ungrateful snobs with more money than sense.
The point of this post is simply to ask you to be kind, to be humble and to be grateful for the opportunities you are given.
Remember that you are blessed with the wealth of education, money, health and freedom.
We are lucky. Whether we want to agree with that fact or not. We are so, so lucky.
Thanks for reading.
Note: I chose not to include any photographs in this post because I want the emphasis to be on the message, not on my travels.