I’ve seen a number of memes in recent times that talk about “first world problems,” that poke fun at the frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in more wealthy problems.
I thought of those today as I was cleaning out my files and came across something written by Joyce Rupp some time ago. It is titled Apology to My Brothers and Sisters in Developing Countries. Instead of the joking memes, perhaps we might spend some time reflecting on Rupp’s apology, and what it says about our priorites and our privilege. Here it is:
To my brothers and sisters in developing countries:
While I was deciding which oat bran cereal to eat this morning, you were searching the ground for leftover grains from the passing wheat truck.
While I was jogging at the health center, you were working in the wealthy landowner’s field under the scorching sun.
While I complained about the poor service in the gourmet restaurant, you were gratefully eating a bowl of rice.
While I poured my “fresh and better” detergent into the washing machine, you stood in the river with your bundle of clothes.
While I watched the evening news on my wide-screen television set, you were being terrorized and taunted by a dictatorial government.
While I read the newspaper and drank my cup of steaming coffee, you walked the long, dusty miles to a crowded schoolroom to learn how to read.
While I scanned the ads for a bargain on an extra piece of clothing, you woke up and put on the same shirt and pants that you have worn for many months.
While I built the fourteen-room house for the three of us, your family of ten found shelter in a one-room hut.
While I went to church last Sunday and felt more than slightly bored, you stood on the land with those around you and felt gratitude to God for being alive for one more day.
My brothers and sisters, forgive me for my arrogance and my indifference. Forgive me for my greed of always wanting newer, bigger, and better things. Forgive me for not going my part to change the unjust systems that keep you suffering and impoverished. I offer you my promise to become more aware of your situation and to change my lifestyle as I work for the transformation of the world.