What We Take for Granted

December 8, 2009
By , Sinagpore, Singapore
I’d like to recall a recent incident; it happened a little over a week ago, a time when my parents were out of town. Unlike most teenagers, I hated the emptiness and silence that echoed throughout the house, despite having my brother and sister home for company. But that feeling… it’s not what I really want to recollect at the moment. In fact, it’s something I learned in the two and a half week duration my parents were away.

Probably a mutual feeling among many of my schoolmates, I was looking forward to thanksgiving break. My first year at high school was going well. Second quarter, though, was something I was worried about. TWO B’s! Granted, one was a B+, but I wanted to be on the high honor roll again. It wasn’t just to see my parents smile, but to show myself that I did have what it took to be an A student, no matter my grades from previous years. I knew the only thing to do was study, like any normal person would do. It would’ve been so much better with my mom to talk to; she was definitely one of my stress busters.

So, of course, these were the things going through my head while I strolled through the school’s hallways everyday. Another voice, a small part of my head, was telling me that everything would be fine: just two weeks until the long weekend, where I could rest and do whatever I wanted.

Before my parents left, they’d left probably three hundred dollars or more in the safe, so my brother and I could take however much we’d need while they were gone. I assured my mom it was more than enough; we only needed the money for school, right? And they weren’t gone for long.

The days went by; the money in the safe slowly dropped in amount, though I didn’t really notice as I grabbed some for a taxi ride to a friend’s house and back, or for a taxi ride to fencing class. Sometimes, my sister would need money, and I’d find myself getting her some, knowing my mother had never told her the safe code. The first week passed without incident, except a little altercation with my sister while doing homework and debates at the dinner table. Nothing unusual, nothing out of place. The second week passed. I was ecstatic; half a week till my parents came home. Half a week till thanksgiving break.

It was Monday, which meant fencing class. It wasn’t like I didn’t like the sport but did it have to take place so late in the evening? There was nothing I could do about it. Time to get taxi money. I was prepared for anything that night, but I wasn’t prepared for this: we were out of money. Out of everything that could’ve happened, I actually had to experience being broke. I looked to my brother, because who else could’ve used up the money so fast? I ended up having to skip my fencing lessons that night and bring my lunch to school the next day.

Another thing happened. Because it was so close to thanksgiving, my helper needed to buy things to marinate the turkey. It would cost two hundred dollars. I thought, hey, no problem, my mom will be back tomorrow morning.

But they weren’t. It turned out they had missed their flight, due to a misunderstanding my dad had with the time they were supposed to leave. They wouldn’t be back will the next morning and the turkey had to be marinated now. My sister, thank goodness she was there, came to the rescue by taking out all the coins she’d collected over two years and counted out two hundred dollars. I tried to contribute, feeling sad my sister had to make such an enormous sacrifice, until it hit me.

Here I was, sorry my sister had to use her savings while my parents were away, sorry, even though I knew she would get paid back, while millions of people in Africa, South America and many other parts of the world were doing all they could, not to make sure they had a good turkey dinner, but to get a bite to eat, to survive.

With that in mind, how could I feel sorry for myself? Why should children have to be orphans because their parents died of hunger? Why should I get to have fun when others have to live in a cycle of poverty with no way to get out? And in the moment, I was worried over seeing my sister use up some of her money when I knew she would get it back in the blink of an eye. What do others, the ones who barely have a dollar, think when they have to use that dollar up? What would they think if they saw me worrying, with lots of money flying their way home right that second? Would they see me as some kind of spoilt monster?

My parents were gone for two and a half weeks, and some of those children out there may never see their parents again. It makes me sad just to think about it, though it's just the way life is.

Someone once told me: if your family owns a car, then you’re rich. That makes me rich. And rich people shouldn’t have the luxury of sitting back to enjoy life. It’s our responsibility to do something about the world, whether it’s helping a blind man cross the street or giving some money to a beggar on the sidewalk. Our lives may be different, but ignoring the poor doesn’t make them go away. It doesn’t stop poverty. Actions, big or small, do.

This realization makes me look at the world in a brighter light and show me that the majority of the rich, even if they don't intend it, take things for granted.

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