The word “rich” is a very subjective one. As Americans, our idea of being rich is more than likely being wealthy.
But what if in other countries, being rich was measured in culture and tradition instead of in monetary value? Many Keene State College students who attended alternative break this past winter 2014 would argue that spending time in the Dominican Republic, among other countries, taught them a new meaning of the word rich. Here in the United States, even at the worst of living conditions, we probably still have it better than most developing nations.
Americans are no strangers to the term “first world problems.” This is a modern day term sarcastically used to describe problems that are very trivial in the grand scheme of things. Complaining about a lack of wifi connection, sighing when our go-to coffee flavors are out of stock at Dunkin Donuts and acting as if having a fully charged phone is a life-or-death situation is something we often find ourselves doing.
But what if our problems posed a threat to our survival?
For many across the globe, basic needs such as having clean water are rarely met. Think about where you sit at this very moment. Perhaps you are at a desk. Your cell phone is more than likely within sight or reach, you are probably in a heated room with walls, doors and overall, the shelter you are in is secure. Look above you, is there a light on? Is there a television on nearby? Is there a radio playing background music? These are all parts of our lives that we often take for granted.
Chances are, we don’t even acknowledge when we are using these things. The Equinox would argue that here in the United States and in other advanced areas, we might have a false sense of wealth.
We may be measuring wealth in ways that are not entirely that important. We would like to argue that richness can be measured in culture and tradition; in the way that people treat one another. We are aiming to lessen the gap between rich and poor. Instead of looking at richness as a spectrum with two different ends, it should be looked at as a continuum where there are points in the middle that create a balance of richness and poorness in different areas.
For example, a person who is rich in wealth and has a lot of money to buy materialistic items may not be spiritually rich in their relationships with family members or friends.
We believe that people need to change their overall perceptions of what it means to be rich. Instead, people need to realize that there is a plethora of ways people can be rich. They can be rich in wisdom, culture, spirit and tradition, among countless other things. Ultimately, it is near impossible to experience richness in all ways possible. We all experience being rich in different ways.
It is crucial that we do not fall into the mistake of becoming individuals solely invested in material things. Having money as your motive can serve a good purpose as long as you don’t let it supersede your need to treat others kindly and with respect. It is also an important part of life to keep your family’s culture and customs alive. To let something with so much history and passion slip away is certainly sad and disheartening.
Engaging in community service work such as attending trips during alternative spring break and winter break are good ways to educate yourself and realize that our perceptions of the world here in the United States may not be the only way we should be looking at life. The Equinox would like to encourage people to be more conscious of the fact that there are variations of richness that all need to be acknowledged.