As I sat at work during my lunch break it dawned on me that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas for most of the Christmas celebrating world. There is no mistaking the glimmering lights radiating from people’s homes nor the unmistakable festive spirit that seems to have overcome a lot of people. Workers have a spring in their step, children are giddy with excitement and teenagers are dropping christmas presents hints. The global gloom and uncertainty that has clouded most of the developed world has almost been silenced by the anticipation of the upcoming festivities.
This coming Friday marks 84 years of consumerism (or longer depending on which way you look at it). This is by no means an anti christmas post. In fact it’s the opposite. Last year alone billions were spent all over the world during Black Friday with the UK spending £1.96 Billion across 14 million consumers. That works out to £140 per person on average.You’re probably thinking yikes, or I don’t remember spending that much last year. In China alone this year during an equivalent occasion; the 11/11 over 14 Billion was spent on their Alibaba site (by the way I’m guilty on that account as well, i did have a look at their website with the intention of buying things i didn’t need, as luck would have it nothing seemed to interest me.)
This afternoon during my lunch break at work I joined millions of other consumers in scouring different websites in preparation for this grand event. I am going on holiday after all and I’ve been known to be partial to a good sale – i wasn’t about to let this one pass me by. As i sat looking at countless dresses and other things that i frankly don’t need, it all of a sudden dawned on me how privileged i was and how unfair life was for the billions (80% of the world population) who live on less than $10 or £8 a day.
Now the purpose of the my next point is not to invoke some sort of guilt for what you have in life but to perhaps encourage some outward thinking as i have been doing. If you earn £23000 or $25000 a year you are among 10% of the world’s top earners. That’s a staggering figure considering the average salary in the UK is £26,500. This means that on average most people in the UK are extremely privileged by quite a significant margin. For a country where complaining is considered a conversation “ice breaker” that’s something to think about, anyways that’s a topic for another day.
You may be thinking, “ok I get it, I’m privileged but such is life, i can hardly do anything about it.” Whilst it’s true that we can’t save the whole world; (something else I’ve been pondering lately). We can make a difference in our areas of influence. This is a personal challenge for me and i hope it’s one that you’ll also think about. Poverty has many facets to it and having an interest in it does not equate to boarding a plane to the ends of the earth to work with poor children, (by the way that’s a very noble venture if your heart is so inclined).Caring for the poor may look like you volunteering in your local soup kitchen. It might see you wrapping up a christmas present and dropping it off at your local salvation army or organisation of choice. It may even mean giving a pair of socks to the homeless man sitting by your local station.
So in the midst of the festivities and as wonderful as they are, I hope we’ll all take time to look outside of ourselves and to empathise with the majority of humanity who live in dire circumstances. I can’t tell you what your area of influence is, perhaps it really is boarding that plane but whatever it is, grand or small that little step can make a meaningful difference. We can’t save the world but we can do what we can, I’ll certainly be challenging myself.