Obviously, the last few weeks have been new and scary for everyone. The lock-downs, the businesses closing, and the quarantining are where everyone is focused (from a safe distance). One of the countless reactions has been anger at all of the celebrities and professional athletes that could get tested for COVID-19 while so many others couldn’t. They’re connected and have the resources most of us can only look at from afar. We sit and imagine what it would be like to live like them. They are the powerful 1% everyone talks about. While you might not think about it, if you’re reading this, you’re probably in the 1%.
Many of the social media postings lately are about how hard it is to be locked up in our houses. People “finishing” Netflix, posting countless COVID-19 memes, people joking about reaching the “end of the internet,” etc. Think this through, most of us are complaining about staying in our comfortable houses, with full pantries, after hoarding TP, frustrated that our gym is closed. We have a level of personal comfort that is unmatched in history, and unbelievable to much of the world. Let’s look at a couple of points.
The whole hoarding thing doesn’t work in most of the world. Many people in developing countries make just enough day-to-day to buy food for that day, if they are lucky. The idea of hitting a store and purchasing a week or two’s worth of supplies would be unimaginable to most people. In Trevor Noah’s book, Born a Crime, Stories from a South African Childhood, he writes: “Everyone in the township bought things in minute quantities because nobody had any money. You couldn’t afford to buy a dozen eggs at a time, but you could buy two eggs because that’s all you needed that morning. You could buy a quarter loaf of bread, a cup of sugar.” Only buying for today is how much of the world has to live, hoarding is for the rich.
There are no safety nets in much of the world. I was talking to a few construction worker friends here in Mexico about all that’s going on. I mentioned how the US government is planning on sending $1,200 to most US citizens, that Canada is sending $2000, and I explained what unemployment insurance is. The idea that most families in the developed world will take a hit but be OK, was an odd, yet not surprising concept to these guys. They know Mexico, and much of the world, doesn’t operate like that. In Mexico, India, most African countries, etc. if you don’t work this week, you don’t eat this week. Safety nets are for the rich.
Social Distancing only works if you have the right square footage. The average new home in the US is 2,623 square feet. The average household in the US has 2.6 people. So if you do the math, each person, on average, has about 1000 sq. feet of living space, keeping six feet apart in our own homes is not that hard. In most of the world you have six, eight, maybe ten people living in one or two-room houses. You have people who, when they can buy food, go to crowded street markets. Most people around the world use crowded public transportation; they do not own cars. Personal space is a luxury.
Regular hand washing and face masks are unattainable for many people. Several years ago, I was visiting a small village in West Africa during the Ebola outbreak. It was amazing Ebola didn’t spread like wildfire in that area. The town I visited had one water-well in the middle of the town square for about one hundred people to share. No running water in the houses, no hot water that wasn’t in a pot over a fire, no indoor plumbing of any kind is normal. It’s not that they didn’t know hand-washing was important, hand washing several times a day just wasn’t an option in their lives. Up until about one hundred and fifty years ago, indoor plumbing was rare in the US also. As recently as 1940, less than half of the homes in the US had indoor plumbing. We just assume easy access to water has always been there. Many people around the world are still hoping to have indoor plumbing “someday”.
This blog is not written to make anyone feel guilty; it’s just healthy to see the realities of the world in which we live. If you’re in the 1%, great, you should be thankful to have been born in a time and place that’s rare in history. This is why short-term missions are so important, people around the world need help, and people who can help need to see and experience how the rest of the world operates. Obviously, short-term missions are on hold for the foreseeable future; we hope mission trips can start up again soon.
In God’s eyes, we are all valuable and precious. In the broken world we live in, although everyone is valuable, the access to resources varies widely. In this world, some people are more equal than others.
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