Were Americans born on third base?

A friend of mine — an American who loves baseball, likes to say that Americans were born on third base. Whether this is true or not, it is obvious that the U.S. and much of the western nations are places where lack is only a relative term. Don’t take me wrong. I know there is a lot of people struggling to make ends meet in the west, including the U.S., but when compared to some other parts of the world, we might as well be Bill Gates, even the majority of the “poor” among us.

Today I start reflecting on what is like to live in some other parts of the world.

I was visiting a friend in the hospital today. While visiting her brother on Sunday, she missed a step and ended up doing significant damage to her ankle. She had a complicated surgery and now will have to work hard and wait at least two months until she can put weight on that foot. As painful as that process was and is, I don’t know if she realizes her good fortunes under the circumstances. She was able to go to a state of the art hospital where several competent physicians spared no effort to fix her foot. And while the recuperation time is slow and painful, the amazing thing is that she can actually look forward to regaining full use of her foot.

In some other countries around the world she might have to wait in the emergency room for several hours or days, lying on a mat or on the floor, before she would be helped. She would then be bandaged up and referred to a surgeon, and probably released to go home. Her relatives would then have to get in line, more than likely early in the morning, to try to make an appointment with the surgeon. If she got lucky and saw one, it may be three to four months until she is able to have the surgery scheduled. Of course, in most cases, going to a doctor or a hospital would be completely out of the question either for lack of money or because no such services are available. You get the picture.

To be more specific, here are the facts:

Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.

At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.

And here are the World Bank Development indicators from 2005:

Finally, look at the statistics for people who live in hunger in the world (from 2010):

In the next few days I will be looking at what it means to live in the rest of the world so you can think about the privileges you have living in the West and some of the implications of this to how we live our lives. My goal is not to make you guilty but to inform you. But if you get guilty, deal with it.

Ah yes, and my friend said, “Thank God for morphine.”

Ivanildo C. Trindade