Rich Man, Poor Man
I watched a documentary a few days ago about the exodus of boys from Sudan in the 1980s and 90s. It was a fascinating look at a culture suffering from horrific poverty, war, disease, and surrounded by nothing but death. They walked over a thousand miles, across three countries, in the sweltering desert with no shoes, no parents, and no direction. Tens of thousands died, and still tens of thousands remained only to endure unimaginable hardships. After years of such living, a small number of these "lost boys" were flown to the United States and set up with apartments for three months until they could obtain employment. They had never seen electricity, running water, plumbing, etc. And yet after only several months in the United States, they said that life in this country "is hard."
Please let that sink in. These young men walked over a thousand miles over a course of years. They were barefoot with no food, no medicine, no clothes, no parents, no direction, no future; attacked by enemies and wild animals; suffered from disease, starvation, and dehydration -- and they said that life in the USA "is hard." Though they roomed together in the US in groups of three or four, they said that they were lonely, and that they greatly missed their friends back home. They were confused at a culture where the long days are spent working for money and little time is spent with family; the food cannot be traced to its original source; Christmas is spent worshipping someone named Santa; the people do not speak to each other much less support each other; and the clothes, homes, and automobiles define one's character.
The change in the young men could be seen almost immediately upon boarding the plane in Africa. It was a transition visible in their eyes -- the windows to their very souls -- from sensitive human beings to complex robots in a bustling society of machines, money, and mayhem. They went from simple survival strategies to complexities and confusion everywhere from the very floors under their feet to disturbing visual stimulation being thrown at them in every direction. You would have thought that they would have come here and praised God. Instead they were sad, confused, and lonely. If that doesn't wake us up, nothing will.
It really hit home for me this morning as I got into my car at 6:30 a.m. and pulled into the Dunkin Donuts drive-through. I placed an order from my car speaking to a machine, took my styrofoam cup and drove in my vehicle down the highway alone. My day continued to be monopolized by one machine after another with very little real interaction with another human being. I found myself thinking of the African boys hanging out together with their clans back home -- swimming in the Nile, walking to get water and food, laughing, playing, helping each other -- and I felt like a lonely robot.
Don't worry -- there's a pharmaceutical company out there somewhere that will surely create a pill to make me feel like a human being again. For a rich country, we are indeed quite poor.
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