Been there, done that,…now. As of this morning, I’ve recovered from my first bout with the dreaded bug. Turns out my jet-lag was more than just a misaligned biological clock and my previous post, “Home,…safe and sound”, was a bit premature. Three days of the illness itself and then three days coming down off the remedy inflicted a severe pounding on my body, but I’m feeling mostly normal today [sigh of relief].
Not that I would ever go looking to be deliberately infected with a potentially crippling and possibly lethal infection, but I consider it a privilege to have had this experience. It’s one of the risks we take, it kinda comes with the territory, like they say. I’m pleased that I can now relate to my African friends on another level.
By no means do I seek to diminish the severity of this brutal disease. According to the WHO, there were an estimated 627 000 deaths due to malaria in 2012, 90% of which occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. DR Congo is in a list of six African countries where infections are most prevalent. Globally, 77% of deaths from malaria are among children under 5 years old. Thus, one child died from malaria almost every minute.
So, easy for me to say that having malaria is a privilege, right? I endured my case propped up for two nights on a comfortable bed in a modern hospital, nurses stations in both directions, private bathroom with safe running water, flushing toilet, hot shower, meals on order, and medications galore. Contrast that with crowded, run-down hospitals without adequate supplies, no indoor plumbing, and no food service. I’m told that the malaria cure in DR Congo costs less than $5 – many people can’t afford it and the government does nothing to help (2012 Malaria Report, DR Congo).
Therefore, part of the privilege is in my perspective, being so recently in the poorest country in the world and then promptly finding myself in the midst of North American prosperity. I found myself in tears one night this week, thinking about the conditions that people endure,…and the affluence that we have come to expect for ourselves. I continue to get deeper glimpses into the realities of life in Congo each time I go. The crazy thing: I can just hop on a plane and fly away from it all.
I don’t presume to think that we should lower our standard of living to match that of those who suffer most. Hardly. My biggest point is this: I haven’t decided if we have only little or absolutely nothing to complain about as Canadians. Frankly, I have little tolerance for it these days, though it’s easy to do. Here’s my philosophy lately concerning things that seem worth complaining about: Deal with it, or do something about it.
Complaining is infectious negativity. Of course there’s a balance in talking about the things of life that are difficult. This can be productive and even freeing, but I think out-and-out complaining is neither. We have SO MUCH to be thankful for. Oh, and something else I was reminded of this week: The most important things are not things,…they’re RELATIONSHIPS.