Thoughts : Poverty : Why am I so blessed?

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…I live in a pretty well-off family – I have had no problems with money since young. But I guess I’ve never been a person who spends a lot and needlessly either. Actually, the only things I’ve really spent on a lot in the past years have been books (mostly!) and CDs. I try not to spend much on food except on special occasions. So I do try to save up a lot.

When I started about a year or two ago to understand what’s going on around the world in terms of poverty, oppression and war, I slowly see myself more and more as one who is so blessed. I mean, why is it so that I can be living a pretty good life in a nice house in a safe country when others are dying of poverty or dying of injustice elsewhere. I simply can’t comprehend it. How come I wasn’t born in either Latin America or Africa or the Middle East? Or even another poorer Asian country? Why is it that I wasn’t the little boy who got killed mercilessly in Palestine or from a family whose house was bulldozed by Israeli tanks, or a child in Africa who has AIDS, or even just the little poor kid in the inner city in America whose parents struggle to provide for him, or maybe one who is sold into prostitution or addicted to drugs…etc. Or to hit closer to home, why wasn’t I like my best friend who comes from a broken home, has a horrible uncle/step-father and whose mother was almost declared bankrupt?

You know, when I think of all this and I think of how the world normally works, how a lot of my friends normally live and how I used to live and sometimes still do, I tell myself, “Hey, I don’t want to live like that.” I know that poverty could be more or less eradicated if everyone sacrificed a little bit and gave to the poor. I wonder why it is that not more people care about it. Why do we go on our lives as though the whole world revolves around our happiness? Why do we spend so much on movies when hundreds of millions have not even seen a television? Why do we spend so much on clothes and make up and all when to survive, let alone look good, is too big of a goal for millions around the world.

Have these people become faceless? I think to many of us they have. We’d rather not know what’s going on around the world and just be concerned with our own lives.

You know I ask myself so many times in the past few weeks why the world is like that? Why is the world busy trying to make more and more money for themselves when so many are in poverty?

…A lot my friends don’t know the struggles that go on inside me. Struggles not for my own survival. Struggles not for my own happiness. But struggles I feel for the faceless in the world – the ones that go through the screens of the television without evoking even a second thought from 99% of television viewers.

I guess when all this goes on in you, you know you’re living on borrowed time. You know how grateful you are to be alive. And you view everything you face daily differently. It’s no longer, “Wow, let me enjoy myself today and not think of anything else but having a good time.” Rather, it’s like you’ve died and exited this world. And then you tell your creator:

God, bring me back to earth coz I want to live my whole life not for myself but for the poor. If you do so, I will always remember that I came for a purpose and that is to help and make a difference. Just bless me by giving me life on earth and I will bless others as you have blessed me by giving me back my life on earth.

I guess that’s how I feel a lot of times – that my life on earth is simply not mine. God is not obliged to let me live till I’m 100. God was never obliged to make me come out of the womb of a mother who lived in a rich country like Singapore: I could very well have been brought up in Africa and died within years because of AIDS, therefore not even reaching my teenage years, let alone being 20 plus and in a marriageable age and later being able to marry someone. Viewed in this way, everything is God’s gift; every breath is a blessing.

It’s hard to let my friends know what I feel about these things. A lot of times, I feel very angry about their apathy about the things that matter and I feel sad also. A lot of the things they do, I don’t want to be involved. To tell you the truth, I’d rather live in a third world country than a well-off country like Australia or even Singapore. No matter how much I feel comfortable with Singapore, I know my view on how I should live will easily be challenged by the prevailing materialistic lifestyle there. In a third world country, at least, I’d be challenged to live out my beliefs fully – without looking stupid or being considered weird.

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  1. I like this entry the most, so far.

    I have thought very hard about this issue once upon a time when I was very new as a christian and I was young back then. It was one of the major reasons why I drifted away from God and I grew very very skeptical about my own faith, His existence, his supposed plan and the ease with which fellow believers say, ‘pray about it’. I didn’t want to pray about it because nothing changed anyway.

    There was a time when I said that none of this needed to happen. None of this suffering, torture, poverty, sickness has to exist in such rapidity and scale.
    I really hated the word, sin. I didn’t see why this world has to be a fallen world and why things have to be the way they are in order for anything to be meaningful, for a grand scheme of things to happen, for a grand design to unfold. I stopped using the Christian worldview to explain the world. I embraced humanity for a very long time, at least in my heart and thought, as it is, as an unexplained painful struggle because in the absence of relief, the reality of life looms so much clearer than the spiritual idealism that many people aspire to. But of course I was arguing as if I was on equal with God.

    I got really tired of blaming God. I got really fed up of wanting an explanation.

    I stopped questioning because I stopped demanding anything of God. I didn’t think that there was any justification, divine or otherwise, for the things that are happening in the world IF truly, with the powers that be, things could be different. Maybe I wanted to be a martyr, on the opposite side of God, to stand on the side of the world and to die with it. Of course it sounds really silly now, that’s why I use past tense.

    As a self shaped intellectual, I pinned a lot of hopes on humanity itself, that it would self correct, that governments would reform, that the economic system would evolve so that blocked channels would flow and food distribution become logical again and sustainability becomes a reality.

    I do not punish myself for wasting food sometimes, or enjoying luxury like having a really good meal at a restaurant and enjoying higher than subsistence level of living. I know that the complexity of this world system negates any form of equality efforts that I dish out on my side of the world anyway. It wouldn’t matter if I left my burger half eaten and wasted, or ate all of it to compensate for the undernourishment of the starving children in the third world country.

    Actually when I was in Morocco, the supposed better part of Africa, I saw these homeless children and mothers. I knew that I was only seeing a very tiny fraction of these people in the world. I knew that I have to go back to Africa. But I know that if I go back now, I would break apart. I think my faith would be greatly shaken.

    There is one way to save the children in Africa, no, there are two ways, but I’m not sure I can carry out the second way, so I will only do what I can- the first way, to Educate. I am very sure that at some point in my life I would go back to Africa but I want to go at a point when I’m ready to give up everything, when I’m convinced that I’m not needed here.

    At the same time I see a lot of meaning in what I’m doing on my side of the world, even though I am only educating the general affluent bunch. But you never know where the education you give here will end up. You don’t know what the things you teach them will push them to do in their future. You hope that, or I hope that, something somewhere the things that I do for education here will blossom in a not so faraway land like Africa you know, but that’s just my ideal, to be able to help in comfort. I guess if I was for the world I might as well be a good representative and be of the world to help the world.

    But, at the moment, I am developing a new thought. I don’t know what it is. But it has got to do with a renewed faith in God. I wish I was smarter and don’t have to wait for it to be developed.. sometimes common sense takes years to reach me. So you can imagine I take a long time to think critically.

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