20 Apr Why You Should Send Your Privileged Child to a Less Developed Nation
One of the most common complaints I hear from today’s parents is that their children are entitled, lack compassion and perspective. I can’t think of any more powerful response to that dilemma than sending them to a less developed nation. While sheltering a child from the harsh realities of the world leaves them without an understanding of it, allowing them to truly see it can create a better, more well-rounded human being.
Entitlement is the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something. It comes from the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges). Considering America consumes 20% of the world’s resources while representing on 5% of its population, it’s not hard to fathom that our youth feel that they deserve many luxuries in life.
We don’t feel that we live in luxury. Our creature comforts feel completely normal because everyone around us has the same things. But our base standard for living is actually quite extravagant compared to the rest of the world. If you’ve never seen another part of the world, it’s a hard concept to grasp. It’s impossible to have perspective over something you’ve never seen, and more, feel compassion toward it. It’s like hearing a death toll on the news – sure it makes you feel bad, but it doesn’t really mean anything unless you knew someone involved.
When you’re immersed in your own culture, you can’t see it. You belong to it and so, you don’t think about it. The comforts are expected – certain levels of technology and convenience are assumed in daily life. Unfortunately, that cultivates a community of ungrateful, greedy people and, in children, creates a bunch of whiny brats, constantly complaining and demanding more.
I know you’ve seen these kids. They’re everywhere, the topic of many parenting articles and many exasperated parental complaints. But what if they saw conditions in another country first-hand? Learned not to take what they have for granted, to appreciate it and be kinder human beings?
For me, it changed my life.
Growing up I had everything I needed. I thought it was normal to eat three big meals a day, snack when I felt like it, relax in air conditioning for over half of the excruciatingly hot year, wash and dry my clothes in a machine, ride in the car to buy fancy dresses for school dances and color my hair. My parents were into teaching ethics; so sure, I had plenty of chores to do, but I thought everyone more or less lived like I did.
Then I went to Ghana. The world hasn’t looked the same since.
Ghana, considered one of the friendliest countries in the African continent, full of culture, dance and music, was the most shocking perspective shift I’ve experienced in my life. Despite being a beautiful country full of kind people, I couldn’t have imagined the culture shock I would experience. During the months I worked as a volunteer there, I lived every human emotion possible, questioned the foundation of everything I believed.
Firstly I had to confront that I was, in fact, extremely privileged compared to the rest of the world. I had done nothing to deserve the wealth of things and modern conveniences my life was made up of and that made me feel two things: immensely grateful to be who I was, and ready to live as a different, better me. I came face to face with a life-altering question: who am I without my context? If I was from Ghana, would I still be me? What would be normal? How would I live differently?
One of the things I noticed was the awareness of consumption. Food wasn’t wasted and they ate simply. They didn’t discard things, but reused them and found new ways to use them. They didn’t overharvest, for example, or there would be nothing to eat next week. They thought about other members of the community when they made decisions and how they would fare. They worked hard, but took pleasure in it. There was no glorification of busy or disassociation of mind from body – they were active and took pleasure in their mundane activities as opportunities to socialize and enjoy community.
It’s not that this alternate society is utopic. It certainly has its own host of problems that are just as foreign to us as its successes, but living in this reality, even for a brief time, gave me so much perspective on my own culture that I was never the same. I came back with so much gratitude for all the things I had taken for granted, compassion for those I hadn’t contemplated prior, and resolve to make the world a better place – starting with myself.