Last year Ross and I watched a Diane Sawyer special on 20/20 (btw if you didn't know, I really love my ABC News people, Diane included. We're on a first name basis). The special was called "A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains" and it focused on the poverty in Appalachia. What we took away from it was being baffled by the health issues in coal mines, the unspeakable conditions kids grow up in and the prevalance of drug abuse in such poor communities but what really blew us away was the use of Mountain Dew. As a rule, we don't drink cokes. Not for any kind of moral highroad or anything but I gave them up for Lent once and never went back and Ross is just actually that health conscious.
In the 20/20 Special they showed parents giving their kids Mountain Dew in sippy cups. As you can imagine, the list of issues with that is obscenely long. Poor oral health, useless calories, hyperactivity, expense of it etc. We were floored. It made us both thankful that we had parents who would never have done that and who taught us, even just by example if not by conscious lessons, that coke in sippy cups is just not OK.
Tonight on Dateline, Ann Curry ventured off to a very poor region of Ohio ("America Now: Friends and Neighbors"). She interviewed several families, among whom was a woman who runs a local food pantry. It was a good special though I can't say anything hit home quite as hard as the Mountain Dew nightmare of Diane's special. Though that said, it definitely reiterated the point that so much of this poverty is simply caused by a lack of education. Of course I don't mean fancy private university education, although yes, college would have opened more employment doors for folks, sure. But teenagers getting pregnant because they aren't educated about birth control or the challenges of being a teen parent. Parents not educated about what healthy foods they should feed their kids and why other foods are so bad.
Even though I definitely had years as an entitled jerk of a teenager, I do think I was always thankful for the advantages I had like a good school, a car at 16, a college education. I'm not sure though that I've often, then or now, really thought about the other advantages I had. I've probably just always taken loving family, well balanced meals, knowledge of budgeting and such fo granted. (I think though that this is relatively common. Right? I'm not alone in this am I?)
That said, I often get angry people's inability to care for themselves. To me, a girl with every advantage in life, it always seems so easy. I hear people say "life is hard" and frequently think "no, it isn't." It sounds harsh and judgemental and I'm not saying its the right attitude. Occassionally, I definitely need to be reminded that my life wasn't hard but that's just my life (thanks Ann and Diane for that reminder). I'm not sure if what I view as blatantly bad choices will ever stop irritating me. Frankly probably not. But I do hope I have the perspective to remember that for many it isn't all their fault. They had nobody to teach them, nobody to set a good example, not a single advantage in their childhood. Keeping that perspective I know will not only make me a less judgemental person but will help me help others and be patient. Here's to hoping I can regularly summon up that kind of perspective and realism and then act with purpose, patience and selflessness.