No, this is not about the current BCS National Championship team, the Alabama Crimson Tide (of whom by the way, I am a huge fan and have been since before I could walk). This is about what we understand to be poverty and hardship.
In the picture (from National Geographic) is a man. Every night at high tide his home floods. The water from the sea slowly seeps underneath his floor boards and covers his floor with salty sea water. I’m not a contractor, but that has to be a nightmare on wood floors. All repair work aside, can you imagine every night waking up to the sloshing of water in your home, covering every inch of your abode? Now this man did not build his home, so it would be inundated every night. He actually built it to be above the water, but an earthquake lowered the elevation of his chosen neighborhood by three feet. He cannot afford to raise his home above high tide. This man’s household is literally underwater on a nightly basis.
We have all heard the metaphors of drowning in debt, or that our houses were sinking. This man’s actually is literally sinking. The combination of receding salt water and midday heat in a tro[ical area will eat the wood of the bottom of his home and rot it completely away. He is fighting a losing battle with the sea.
I found this picture looking for some inspiration. I wouldn’t say I was necessarily inspired by this poor man's evening wash, more like encountered by a question. If this man were living in America, would he be allowed to stay there? Would some TV show come to his rescue? Now before I go any further with this I do want to say that yes, there are thousands upon thousands of homes in poverty, in squalor, and I am not saying that people who have found themselves in those situations do not know what it means to go without. Actually, they know how to live without very well. The fact that people can survive such conditions is incredible and a true testament to what will power can do.
For the majority of Americans however, we don’t experience hardship on these levels. For many of us, dirt on our floor is a such a hideous sight that we will invest over five hundred dollars in a vacuum (you know, the one that “works properly”). I for one spent three hours on my knees working with a car buffer attempting to clean my kitchen floor, so in reality, I don’t even know what living in poverty is actually like. Honestly, I have no desire to experience such things in my life. That’s why I went to college, that’s why I seek every day to find some new skill to increase my ability to earn. Again, not saying that people in poverty haven’t done those same things. The point I am attempting to make is that Americans have a different point of view when it comes to acceptable living (so do most people in western Europe). The thought here is that perhaps we put too much emphasis on excess.
I wrote about the recession and happiness. We came to this point in history as a country because we embraced excess. Our wealth brought us so far above what is necessary in life that many of us lost sense of what we absolutely have to have to live. The man in the picture, you don’t see him outside his flooded house begging for change, or asking Ty Pennington to come do a makeover for him. He is sitting inside going on with his life. The person outside his home with the camera that costs more than his possessions is of no concern. He knows that he has to live in this situation and that he will do whatever is necessary to survive and to succeed. If you look closely you can see that in his home he adapted his furnishings, he has done what he needed to make sure that somehow he was able to stay in his home and have his own place of refuge.
In the these economic hardships we have lessons to learn. One of the biggest lessons for America is that excess does not breed our ability to survive. We must be cautious in how we use our resources, after all we are not all movies stars. We can have what we want, we just need to be sure that we want what we have. This picture is a reminder that we can endure far more than we often realize. Times may be tough, but we can make it through.