Count Your Bristles!

Posted by: Dave Vandenbout 6 years ago

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Well, it's Thanksgiving in the USA. A few years ago, at a gathering of my girlfriend's family, we each made lists of things we were thankful for. "Family" and "togetherness" appeared quite a bit, but my list, naturally, was a bit different - it had things like "clean water" and "absence of minefields" on it.

I've thought about it a bit since then, and I wondered how small the list could be and still cover a lot of my daily blessings. Kind of like those engineers who try to design full-fledged computers having only a single instruction. I finally settled on a list with a single item: a toothbrush. Think of it like this:

  • If I have a toothbrush, then I must have teeth. That's always good!
  • If I have a toothbrush, then I must have clean water to use with it. (Who's going to brush their teeth with sludge?) Anywhere from 0.9 to 1.1 billion people don't have that. I lucked out there, along with almost six-billion others!
  • If I'm brushing my teeth, then at least I'm not suffering from crippling depression that would make doing even basic activities meaningless. And I don't have cancer because, really, would I bother with brushing after every meal if I were battling that?
  • If I'm brushing, then I must be eating. And while as many as two-billion people suffer from "food insecurity", that still means five billion of us are getting enough to eat.
  • If I'm eating, I must be getting to the grocery store. I've heard stories of people in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war dodging sniper bullets as they made their regular trips to the market. About the only thing I have to dodge are idiots backing out of parking spaces without looking. Not quite the same thing.
  • If the grocery stores are stocked with food, that means the distribution systems in the USA and many other countries are still working. And that means the various national economies are still kicking. And that means there are a lot of other people with their own toothbrushes.

So most of us - not all of us, but most of us - have food and water, our health, and live in peaceful, functioning societies. We have the chance to create and make things better for ourselves. For our families. For our neighbors.

But currently, this doesn't seem to be a popular view. Instead, we're told "Your life sucks because others have stolen from you, and the only way out is for you to take it back from them." That sounds like a one-way ticket back to Sarajevo, but on a global scale.

I don't know why such a pessimistic message has become so prevalent, or what the purveyors of that message hope to gain from it. Maybe they're tired and frustrated, or they lack the imagination to find a better path. But this Thanksgiving, I know we're lucky to be where we are and that we all have opportunities to make things better. I have the proof sitting right on the counter in my bathroom.

 

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