Most would agree that poverty is a very important issue to discuss. Being one of the world’s richest countries, it’s hard to think about what other countries are going through. Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, has an ongoing war with malnutrition, a flawed education system, and has suffered through tragic natural disasters that have resulted in millions becoming homeless. In California we have seen our fair share of issues such as the drought, unfair executive orders, and homelessness. Clearly, the problems that Malawi face are nothing compared to what we may face.
The documentary Living on One Dollar follows the cultural exploration of four Claremont McKenna College grads that experience how it’s like to live in the rural community of Pena Blanca in Guatemala. The four friends that set out on this journey planned to spend $1 per day to closely simulate the earnings of the people of Pena Blanca. The people that live in this community have to wake up early in the morning in order to put food on the table and sometimes children have to miss school in order to help their families to make ends meet.
Watching this made me realize that people in our country take a lot of things for granted. For example, in this documentary, the children in Guatemala were eager to be in school yet some of them did not have the funds to go to acquire an education or sometimes they’d have to help their families to put food on the table. In the U.S., some of us, at some point in our lives, have complained about going to school and the amount of homework as well as the act of waking up early that comes with it.
To acquire some insights as to what some things that we take for granted, I went around and asked a couple students here, at UC Merced: “Do you think you take things for granted? How so?”
Student 1: “Yes, I take most things for granted. I often don’t think that a lot of the things I own and opportunities I have aren’t there for other people. Everyday I expect to have phone service, WiFi, 3 meals or more a day etc. I don’t give it much thought, it’s an expectation.”
Student 2: “I have realized a while ago that I do take things for granted and I have tried to better myself but it is hard. For example, I take my family for granted. Even though things are not great, they have done their best to be there and because I am so stubborn sometimes I don’t give them the attention or appreciation I know they deserve. Also all of the nature around us. We don’t even realize that it is what makes us live and we don’t take time to be in it more.”
Student 3: “I think I definitely take things for granted because I’ve never known what it feels like to not have them. For example, family and close friends have been there for most or [the entirety] of my life that I’ve taken their presence as permanent. For other things such as water, food, nature, education, etc., [for] I’ve never had to fight to have them and they have always been accessible to me. I think we don’t realize all the things we take for granted until they’re threatened to be taken from us.”
Although we may not change the world overnight, it begins with little steps in our community. According to ALLMERCEDNEWS, “the number of homeless people in the City is down 18.8 percent from last year, with 177 people counted living on the streets of Merced compared to 218 last year.” We can see that in Merced City alone we are already starting to see improvement. We can do things to help out the needy with simple things such as purchasing them a meal or some clothes. No matter how small your contribution, it’s enough to make a change in their lives.