The luck of the draw.

Saturday, January 20th, 2001

Do you realize how lucky You are? Yes, You. You in general. All of You out there reading this right now. If you are reading this, then chances are that you have a personal computer and an Internet connection, or at least you have access to a computer with an Internet connection and you know how to use that computer. If you can afford to have a computer, then chances are that you can afford to have a roof over your head, and food on your table, and clothes on your back, and shoes on your feet, and enough heating in the winter to keep you from freezing to death. If you are comfortable enough with a computer to casually surf the Internet, then chances are that you have been lucky enough to get some sort of education or training, and if you are reading people’s personal sites for pleasure, then that means that you have at least some amount of free time on your hands during which you can sit back and just have some fun.

I ask you if you know how lucky you are because I’ve realized that most people simply don’t know. It seems that, even if people aren’t taking what they have for granted, they are at least not entirely satisfied with what they have. There is always someone somewhere with something better. And quite frankly, I’m sick of hearing really fortunate people whine and complain about how much they don’t have, and how everyone else seems to have it better, and everyone else’s life is easier, and everyone else gets more, and it’s just not fair.

You know what’s really not fair? It’s not fair that people living in eastern Siberia are having to fight their way through the most brutal winter in decades without any electricity or fuel to heat their houses. It’s not fair that hospitals in Siberia have run out of anesthetic because of the number of amputations they have had to carry out on frostbitten limbs. Amputations are now being carried out without anesthetic. That’s not very fair, is it? It’s also not fair that a country like El Salvador struggles to get on its economic feet, only to be knocked down again by a huge natural disaster. It’s not fair that children get their legs blown off by land mines in Bosnia, it’s not fair that dictators and war criminals go unpunished, and it’s not fair that, even in the “First World”, human beings are allowed to slip through the cracks in society and die alone in cold apartments or on the street, hungry and sick and helpless.

It’s the situation in Siberia that has prompted me to rant like this today. The reports of these people in Siberia have had a particularly strong effect on me. I guess it’s because I see these Siberian women on the television, shouting and crying and desperate, and I see that they’re just normal, plain old people like me. They’re normal women who just happen to have been born into a situation that I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine being in. And - most importantly - I realize that there is no particular reason why they should be in that situation rather than I.

As far as I can tell, it was luck and luck alone that caused me to be born to a middle-class, functional, white American family rather than to a family in Siberia, or El Salvador, or the Congo, or the West Bank - or South Central LA, for that matter. (And I suppose it’s history that makes being a white, middle-class American such a boon, but that’s another story.) As much as I would maybe like to believe in divine intervention, I really don’t think that my body, mind, and soul are so cosmically important that some Deity would personally choose me to be one of the lucky ones while personally consigning someone else to misery in war-torn country or a ghetto. I just lucked out, and I know it.

I think about it every single day, and every day I send out a little word of thanks to whichever cosmic forces may have brought about this fortune-filled existence that I lead. I am lucky to have been born into a family that loves me and would do anything for me. I’m lucky to have been constantly encouraged and instilled with confidence. I’m lucky that I’ve never had to deal with a drug-addicted family member or friend, I’ve never had to dodge bullets on my doorstep, I’ve never had to worry about where my next meal was coming from. I’ve never been persecuted because of my religion or political views. I’ve never been truly hungry. I’ve never been truly lonely. I’ve never had to live in fear.

If this doesn’t constitute wealth and good fortune, then I don’t know what does. If these things aren’t enough to make people truly thankful - without any underlying bitterness or greed, without thinking, “Yes, but I wish I had a bigger car/a nicer house/a more wonderful, sparkling life…" - then I think people need to seriously re-evaluate their conception of wealth and good fortune.

If you are safe and warm and comfortable tonight and you know you’ll be the same tomorrow and the day after, if you can go to bed with a full stomach and wake up to a nice breakfast, if you have someone who cares for you, if you have things to look forward to and reasons to be optimistic about the future - then I hope you realize that you are, quite literally, one of the luckiest people in the world. The majority of the world’s population can only dream of having all that you have.

And I think that, when we see someone less fortunate than ourselves, instead of comfortably brushing it off by saying, “Well, we don’t have everything we want either,” or “God helps those who help themselves,” we need to take a good, hard look at our own lives and say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” We’re the truly fortunate ones, and we should all be thanking our lucky stars.

Comments

1

Interesting rant and one I have articulated myself in the past and yet … we go on and hoist another beer as we cry into said beer.

I am not trying to be ugly but it’s an ugly situation because we all know people who have devoted their lifes to correcting these injustices but I can’t bring myself to be one of them. I am not only lucky but also a little selfish. Yes, I toss my money at the world’s ills when the hat is passed but I fear I am far to comfortable in my lifestyle to make an uncomfortable change so the world is a fairer place to live.

Posted by Michael Ingram-Stahl

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