What is wealth? Until quite recently I believed wealth was measured in love and not money; that all the truly vital shares of life were free. Money, while constraining and occasionally inconvenient, seemed irrelevant in the overall scheme of things. Malawi has taught me the error in my thinking; the things I have taken for granted: Money is a privilege.
While I have not adjusted my perspective concerning the immeasurable value of love, freedom, kindness, generosity, and the like, I have refocused on what lacking access to money signifies.
The great continent of Africa is abundant with wealth and prosperity from the crops produced from its earth. The continent’s people work day in and day out, for decades, only to barely survive with enough food to eat. The hypocrisy in this is beyond ironic, and more aptly, inhumane.
I stand witness to a place of beauty and wealth, only to see the indigenous community members struggling in conditions my country would not tolerate; all the while, the U.S. stands with other global super powers exploiting and benefiting from the revenue generated from crops of tea, maize, cotton, and tobacco, just to name a few.
To answer the original question I posed, my new perspective is that wealth is the ability to enjoy life. The indigenous people of Malawi enjoy life in a way I never imagined. They are truly “The Warm Heart of Africa.” They possess wealth of culture, community, love, kindness, and generosity. They struggle together, harnessing their strengths to succeed against all odds. This ability, however, is compromised when hunger interferes.
Even slight hunger causes people to feel distress. In the U.S., “Hangry” is the newest “trend” describing the way we feel when we are put slightly off a single meal. The famine faced by Malawi in the early part of this century caused panic, desperation, and even death. Currently challenged by drought, villages faces food shortages throughout the country.
Until my exposure to this program, I believed most of the myths associated with Africa. Hollywood has painted quite the picture. This country, one I have the honor of visiting, is beyond beautiful: scenically, as well as culturally. Most importantly, however, I have learned what not to believe.
Just because an individual works their entire life does not mean they are paid a fair wage. Just because the majority of a country believes they are free, does not mean they are. Just because schools and media teach that racism is no longer real, doesn’t mean it is not. And just because a person suffers does not mean they are treated medically.
It is of paramount importance that we bring to attention the necessity for our species to recognize each other not only as competing conspecifics but as worthy of an equitable investment in the health and well-being of each other. We must distinguish the value of our cultural diversity and inaugurate a celebration of those differences that our ever-evolving individualities make us who we are. Global citizenship is obligatory to protect our human rights. We must redefine wealth to include the care and celebration of each other’s prosperity. Only then will we ever gain the true ability to embrace wealth.