Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving and the Ability to Choose

As I ran through the streets of Philadelphia this afternoon, I thought about a conversation I've had a few times recently with a friend of mine. For the past six years I've made the choice to work as a climbing guide, a profession I enjoy immensely. I have a place to live, clothing, food and access to any other amenities I might want in my daily life. I can afford to have a car, to pay for health insurance, and to take occasional trips to other climbing areas. I don't even work full time to afford all of these things.

A friend of mine, with whom I climb frequently, likes to remind me that being born in the United States is like winning the lottery. She grew up in a place where people are born with nothing and they're taken advantage of by their government. Financial support for the people in these areas is frequently siphoned off by corrupt government officials. Being born in the United States is like being handed a lottery ticket at birth. Yes, I know this is an oversimplification of the truth; there's poverty, hunger, and a lack of healthcare in the U.S. too. However most of us have it pretty good. If things begin to go badly in our lives we have friends and family to lean on and to bail us out financially. We don't need to bribe police officers when we get a ticket and we don't need to sweeten the deal when buying a house or vehicle. And for the most part we are safe in our own homes, even with the doors unlocked.

On this Thanksgiving day I am grateful that I even have a choice at all.  Using some rough calculations of population there's about a 1:20 chance that you're born in the U.S. Add Europe and there's a 1:7 chance that you're born a a developed country. Those odds are better than the lottery but I'm still thankful for the position I'm in.

Just some food for thought... Happy Thanksgiving.