When each day flows into another, it can be hard to just sit back and think about what we have to be grateful for. Living in Australia (or in most places in the Western world) gives us a set of privileges that we seldom think anything of. The fact that we have running water or that we have the ability to walk outside and do what we please is a liberty so many in this world do not have.
Earlier this year, I travelled to the Amazon jungle in search of something different and unique. I flew from Brisbane to Iquitos (about 13,000 km as the crow flies) – the world’s largest city inaccessible by road. Straight away, I was thrust into a world that was completely different from my privileged life in Australia.
As I was transported via boat down the Amazon River, I watched as we sailed past families sitting on their roofs as the high tide had engulfed their whole house. It was just another day to them and they smiled and waved as we went by. And even though I was right there, it was almost as if I was in a movie, watching on with awe, but not quite understanding or fathoming what was in front of me. Deep in the Peruvian Amazon, where I stayed for a month, there was a small community with about 50 residents. They were some of the happiest children I have ever seen, yet they lived in houses made of collected wood with palm tree roofs. But wait, isn’t happiness determined by the size of the house you live in? Or the car you drive? Or how many clothes you have in your cupboard? Or the money in your bank account? Surely they weren’t happy with their meagre surroundings?
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Little boys in Peruvian village. Source: Emma Greenbury
But they were – happiness to them was kicking a soccer ball, and the look on their faces when we gave them colouring pencils and notebooks was priceless. My time there with no phone, no electricity and no hot water was some of the most joyous and humbling experiences of my life. Just thinking now that I have the ability to fly halfway across the world is something I have taken for granted, as have many of us. Snap back to life in Australia and children want iPads and expensive toys, while there are some in the most remote parts of the world who have a lot less and are healthier, happier and more grateful.
World Toilet Day was on the 19th of November, and while some may think this is a comical day of celebration, it actually is a day for awareness. So why do we need to be aware of toilets? Because one third of the world are without one…in 2014. That is 2.5 billion people who do not have something we consider to be a bare necessity – even the homeless in Australia have access to bathrooms and sanitation.
We all want to help and we all recognise there are problems in our world that still have not been solved despite enormous wealth – poverty, hunger, lack of shelter, health – but are we truly empathetic? Do we fully appreciate and understand the incredibly lucky position we are in? Perhaps these statistics will help us put it into perspective:
- If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75 per cent of the world
- If you have money in the bank, your wallet and some spare change, you are among the top 8 per cent of the world’s wealthy
- If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week
- If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation, you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering
- If you can read this article, you are more fortunate than the 3 billion people in the world who cannot read at all
For a bit more perspective and to see how tiny we are in the scheme of things, check out this interesting and mindblowing site. It goes to show that we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, for there are so many others worse off.
Do you feel lucky to live in Australia? How do you put your life into perspective? What makes you feel grateful and how do you show your appreciation? Tell us below.