Rethink what it means to be well off

By Kjersti Andreassen, Guest Columnist

This morning I woke up, picked up my phone and rolled out of bed. I jumped in the shower and got dressed. I then walked over to the Anderson University Center, where I bought coffee and devoured a quick breakfast before class.

I suddenly noticed that sitting around me were similarly zombie-eyed students, facing the same mix of sleep deprivation and early classes as me. It’s that time of the semester — the library grows fuller, the stacks of books taller and students’ gazes duller.

I imagine that my fellow students’ morning routines were pretty similar.

“I’m not that well off.” “I am not especially privileged.” Those are two statements I often find myself thinking. Today, I wonder if they are true.

Maybe you didn’t have class today. Maybe you hung out in the library all day studying. Maybe you went to work. But I’ll bet that like me, you slept in a bed, and that you had hot running water in the bathroom. You probably had money to get food and drink as well.

This spring, I was fortunate enough to meet a group of refugee children in Mae Sot, Thailand. They are like most other kids, except that the place they call home is a garbage dump on the border between two countries. I got to play with them, sing with them and hug them. Their toys are old paintbrushes and torn up plastic bags. They have less than $7 per week to live on.

Still, they smile. More than anyone else I’ve ever met. They don’t have toys, but they have each other. And they are radiantly, intensely happy. They hug and carry one another.

Compared with me, those children have nothing, and yet they are endlessly richer than I am.

Those children have understood something I easily forget. To them, people are more valuable than anything else. The kids who laughed and hugged and carried each other were, and are, so much wiser than I am. They already know one of the most important things in life — loving one another.

Tomorrow, my alarm will go off again. Another day will begin, progress and end much the same as today did. If I am honest with myself, though, it doesn’t have to.

I have to ask myself why I’m willing to let tomorrow be just another day. I think about how it would be if I were a little less self-conscious. I think about how I would be If I put aside my textbooks for an hour and offered someone a hug and my undivided attention, or if I bought the person in line behind me coffee. If I lived less like a distracted and stressed student, and more like one of the children at this garbage dump, how my world change. 🅼

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