The Rich American

Daniel Schwarz - Ecuador


March 1, 2013

It’s uncomfortable being thought of as ‘the rich American’ but the reality of it is, in terms of money, I am rich, spoiled, and very fortunate. Is money what really makes someone rich?

I sit here writing on an iPad which is pretty much a $700 toy. At home I have my own car, my own computer, a stereo system, hot water, clean water and so many other things that, before coming to a developing county, I never would have thought twice about. My parents went to college and got good educations. In turn, they were able to get good jobs and provide extremely well for me. These two amazing people were lucky enough not to be caught in a poverty trap. They were able to provide a safe, enlightening and supportive environment for me. 

Because of where I grew up I was able to attend a good pubic high school, something that is extremely rare in Ecuador. I think back on how I had the nerve to bitch and complain about how much I hated high school and how suffocated I felt in my hometown. I often saw what I didn’t have and yearned for the things that I wanted. I wasn’t a brat as a teenager but I never truly appreciated what I had, which is a life that only about 15% of the world has. A life of ease, filled with food, clothes, shelter, technology and most importantly, a loving family.  I had everything that I needed and most of the things I wanted and yet, I wasn’t fulfilled. 

I now live without: a car, clean water, good plumbing, tolerant parents, hot water, and reliable internet. I am surrounded by poverty and inadequate schools yet I am the happiest I have ever been! The Ecuadorians are so grateful for everything they have. It is typical for generations of families to live in the same household, or within very close proximity of each other.  In many cases the people live off their land with little need for outside interaction. Most Ecuadorians do not get an education beyond high school, and it’s common not to finish high school. They cannot tell you why burning plastic is bad, or tell you why a condom is good. For them it is enough to be alive and well. The meaning of life for these beautiful people is to have, food, shelter, family, and friends.  It is not to have lots of money or the latest iPhone.

For me this is an amazing thing. I come from a culture of wanting and needing more and it has come to disgust me. I have come to realize that money is something the world needs and that it can corrupt the beautiful things in life.  

It’s important to be grateful for what we have. Those of us who live in first world countries have the opportunity and the resources to do amazing things. I don’t mean to lecture or to preach but I would like people to think and realize how good they have it. To see the good things in life and the not the bad. Chances are, if you are reading this blog, your life is good. Take a step back, and realize how fortunate you are! 

Much love,

Daniel

Daniel Schwarz