Blessed in the USA

by Brandi Freeman

Sometimes I feel like it hits me full force in the face just how fortunate I am. I mean, really – I’m blessed!

One of those moments was when I was flying home from visiting my little sister who is serving in the Peace Corps in Zambia. This trip to Africa was my first trip out of the United States and I absolutely loved my trip, but I was really excited to be going home. It wasn’t until the excitement of my adventure was over that I really began to realize how fortunate I am.

One of the things that jumped out at me in the capital city, Lusaka, Zambia, was the lack of infrastructure. Even in the cities, they didn’t seem to have a well-organized way of dealing with trash. Many people burn their trash or bury it, because a big truck doesn’t come by and carry it off to a landfill once a week. I’ve taken the fact that I have trash service for granted my whole life. When I moved into my house three years ago, all I had to do was call a trash company and set up service and ‘Viola!’ my trash is picked up once a week. I don’t ever have to think about it again. (Yes, I realize not thinking about our waste is a problem in America and probably contributes to why we create more trash than anywhere else in the world, but I’m grateful we have a system even if the system needs improvement!)

I also came to understand what people mean when they say America is the land of opportunity. I used to think that statement was a bit overdramatized, but when I talked to my sister about the problems people face in her village I could see that I was wrong. The life expectancy at birth in Zambia is 37.5 years and the number one underlying cause of death among children is malnutrition.

I know that a lot of people in America struggle and there are children right here in Springfield who don’t even get proper nutrition, but we have opportunities. If you don’t like your situation, there is almost always something you can do to change it in this country. Medical care is available. Education is readily available. The United Way and other organizations offer all kinds of support and programs. Not to even mention the Girl Scouts!

This is a land of opportunity, and when I see how fortunate I am I can’t help but be a bit overwhelmed. After I settle down I usually feel compelled to find new ways to pay it forward and do something to give back. How about you? When you feel blessed, do you feel like giving back to your community or less fortunate parts of the world? What do you do?

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