“Eat your vegetables. There are children in [Third-World country] who would love to have the food on your plate.”
That line is so synonymous with growing up in America that even if your parents never said it, you probably think they did. It’s all part of growing up in the land of plenty.
I know it was said to me as I sat forlornly staring at any one of several offending vegetables getting colder by the second on my plate. As mothers were wont to do I was sitting long after dinner was over until I ate the vegetable du jour. I thought I could wait her out. All I learned was not to try and call mom’s bluff.
Most people in Haiti don’t know where their next meal is coming from — or if one is coming at all. Not that they were in clover before the earthquakes.
Five minutes from our home there is a store that has pet food stacked high on both sides of the aisle. My dogs eat better than many Haitians. So if the dogs are doing OK, we should feel buried in grace. Or not.
For some reason that passes understanding, we can’t wait to swap sob stories: The car that needs detailing. The increasing cost of a gallon of milk. How long the doctor made us wait for the annual physical.
We meet for our $4 cup of coffee and complain that the stoplights on Roswell Road screwed our whole day. Even though we do have a paved road running right through our city with functioning stoplights, which is more than can be said in Haiti.
A few minutes from the grocery with the steeply priced milk, I can walk into a clean medical clinic for treatment, and not much farther is a fully staffed emergency room. There are numerous places I can secure basic first aid supplies for less than $10.
I can get to all those places in that slovenly car — the one that starts every time I turn the key. When it’s low on gas there are 15 places to refill it. More, if I bothered to count. I’ll bet Haitians know how many fuel stations they have.
We’re spending a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter decrying the raw deal a late night talk host got, the one who is getting $33 million in a settlement of his contract. That’s $33 million and he won’t have to show up and work. Is anyone that funny? Just sit with that for a minute. Thirty-three million.
That’s for a guy skilled at entertaining us but he won’t be doing anything. I wonder how far $33 million would go for the average Haitian.
Our problems are still problems — the answer to every hurdle that life drops into our path is not to look toward those who have it worse.
But a little compassionate context if you please, before we throw a nutty over things like an unemployed TV host — the one with the bloated wallet.
Jim Osterman lives in Sandy Springs.