When a lot of us think about privileged members of society, we immediately think of the vastly wealthy Wall Street Jordan Belfort types. To some extent, I understand why people think like this. After all, in the United States, 1 percent of the population owns around 35 percent of the nation’s private wealth. To put that into perspective, that’s more money than the bottom 90 percent of the population has.
Most people in this country can’t even begin to fathom what it would be like to have that kind of money and the limitless options and privileges it would present.
However, no matter how unimaginable that lifestyle may seem to us, it’s important to remember that a large proportion of the world’s population would look at what most of us at UND have in the exact same way.
I’m not saying that every student at UND is free of financial difficulties, but it’s the small things we barely think about that set many of us apart from the rest of the world.
Three meals a day, decent housing, and a car with heating are some things many of us take for granted.
According to the World Food Programme, about 805 million people are not well fed enough to live a healthy and active lifestyle. About 100 million people are homeless. And that doesn’t account for those with minimal shelter who live in terrible conditions.
Only about 9 percent has the privilege of driving a car. In my experience here at UND, it is more uncommon to meet someone who does not have their own car than it is to meet someone without a car.
This past weekend, I had an amazing opportunity to ride in a small airplane with a friend of mine who has his pilot’s license. It was my first time going in a plane of that size, and overall it was a very enjoyable experience. Afterwards, we went out to a restaurant for lunch.
Although it was a really enjoyable experience, during the whole experience my thoughts were more or less just, “This is a nice way to spend an afternoon.”
In hindsight, I can’t help but think how unbelievably lucky I am to be able to have an experience like that on moderately short notice. Very few people in the world — almost nobody relative to the entire earth’s population — have the opportunity to just hop in an airplane and fly around to kill some time in the afternoon. I was then able to pick exactly what I was in the mood to eat at the restaurant of my choice. At no point in the day was it ever an issue of whether I was going to be able to eat or not. All I needed to know was that I had money in my bank account and a whole lot of options to choose from.
Every once in a while, I think we should all reflect on our day and appreciate just how truly lucky we are. Even if all you did today was go to class and watch a movie, you are a very lucky person. Not only do you have access to higher education which many people do not, but you have a television, electricity, cable, internet, etc. You also don’t live in an active combat zone like way more people than you might think.
Some would argue that just acknowledging what we have doesn’t do much, and that we should instead be taking action to provide a higher standard of living for those less fortunate, and they are probably correct.
But in my opinion, acknowledging how lucky we are is a good first step.
Larry Philbin is the News Editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]