WHEN PRESIDENT OBAMA TOOK OFFICE HE WAS 47 YEARS OLD. THAT IS OLDER THAN THE LIFE EXPECTANCY IN SOME AREAS OF AFRICA.
If you live in the West and you are in your forties you have another 35 or 40 years of life to look forward to. Congratulations. However, if you live in certain parts of the world, you are now at the end of your life – and you were lucky to have lived this long. Starvation, rampant disease, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and relentless illness all combine to shorten the lives of those struggling to survive on one dollar a day in extreme poverty.
At 45, you are in the prime of your life. You are reaping the benefits of your education and the hard work you’ve put into your career. You are entering your peak earning years as a bread-winner. You own your own home and a couple of cars. Your house is filled with every modern convenience. You can afford to take a vacation in order to relax and get away from “the stress” of your life. You can eat out, go to the mall, and attend sporting events and concerts. You have successfully raised a family, and you are now looking forward to grandchildren in the coming years. Your health is good and your financial situation is stable. You are able to put away money for your retirement so that you will be comfortable as you head into your eighties. You are living a dream that one billion people can’t even imagine.
To be a 45-year-old man in certain areas of Africa is an accomplishment, and if you do make it to that age you have experienced a lifetime of suffering. You may have battled malaria, tuberculosis, sleeping sickness, pneumonia or other diseases and illnesses that plague the poor. You have been sick countless times due to poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water. You have been fortunate to survive these things with virtually no medical care whatsoever. You have had long periods of time in your life where you suffered from improper nutrition or actually went hungry. Instead of having the opportunity to have grandchildren you have buried your own children as they painfully died from many of the things you were lucky enough to survive. Your life has been a depressing struggle without relief and your reward for living through it all is an early death.
Extreme poverty shortens life expectancy. It is that simple. Poverty denies you all of the things that are required for good health and longevity. Eighty years of life is a brief moment in time. We all realize how quickly it goes by. We look around and we are shocked by how much of our life is already over. But to have your life span, that brief amount of time, cut in half just because of where you born, or because of your economic class is both heartbreaking and completely unnecessary.
We all want to live as long as possible, and we all want to be in good health so we can enjoy the time we have with our loved ones – but should this opportunity be exclusive to those of us who were lucky enough to be born in a part of the world that provides us with proper nutrition, safe water and medical care? We just take it for granted that we can expect to live eighty plus years. We must stop and realize that there is an inherent unfairness to having your life cut in half because of the living conditions that exist in the area where you were born. If your lifespan is shortened because you had unhealthy habits or willingly chose to participate in risky activities than those were decisions you made and chances you were willing to take. However, to die prematurely when you desperately want to continue living, to die young because of factors that are beyond your control, to die in the prime of life, because others who are more fortunate than you will not come to your aid, is an atrocity.
If you are in your mid-forties, just think of all the things you still want to do, all the goals you would like to accomplish, all the places you would like to travel. Think about being able to grow old together with the person you love. Think of all the joy and happiness you will experience in the next 40 years. You want to live that long. You want to have the opportunity to do those things. You want to live out your dreams. Now stop and think about what it would be like if you died today. Your spouse would be left alone. Your children would lose a parent. You would never get to see your grandchildren. There would be so much you would miss out on in the next four decades. You can’t really imagine the world going on without you. We all feel that way. We all feel that we are important. We all feel like we have contributions to make, and that the world would not be the same without us.
If you live in the Western world and you are blessed with the opportunity to live into your eighties, please consider using some of your time to help those who face the prospect of not living a long and healthy life. You could help raise awareness about how extreme poverty robs millions of human beings of many important years they could have with their families. You could begin to make a monthly contribution to the humanitarian agency of your choice. The money you donate could help provide the lifesaving medical care that could add years to an individual’s life. The important thing is to use the rest of your life wisely. Don’t be selfish.
You were born into a part of the world that allowed you to have access to all the necessary things required to promote longevity. One billion people were not so fortunate. They desperately need your help. 30,000 of them will die today, and 30,000 more tomorrow. So please make the extra years you have left count for something. Use your long life to help others lengthen their lives.
LIFE EXPECTANCY GOES UP WHEN WE TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER.