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Friday, June 18, 2021
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    First World “Problems”

    Mike Ruby
    A Muscatine resident for over forty years, Mike Ruby had careers both as a teacher at Muscatine High school and as a writer for nonprofit companies. Now retired, Ruby continues to cultivate his love for writing by contributing monthly Ruby's Reflections to Discover Muscatine newspaper.

    Muscatine Living

    For many years, Jo Anne and I have traveled extensively, in the States as well as abroad. We enjoy experiencing various cultures, sites, and cuisines, but the main highlight is getting acquainted with local residents.

    In our travels, we have observed extreme wealth as well as gut wrenching poverty. One vivid memory is seeing families scavenging in the massive city dump in Davao City, Philippines. They reside in the landfill in makeshift huts constructed from salvaged sheets of tin and cardboard. Their days are spent rummaging through the garbage to find food scraps, always on the lookout for anything that could be sold for a few coins.

    In 2014, I met a young family in Haiti. They graciously invited me into their house, a dwelling about 300 square feet with a dirt floor and no indoor plumbing. In America, we’d call it a shack, not fit for habitation. The family of six was proud of their tidy home and offered me a dipper of cold water as I sat on a wobbly stool. All of their material possessions probably would not bring $200 at an American garage sale, but they seemed contented and happy.

    What a total contrast to be found in America! We have multiple closets bursting with clothes but still “nothing to wear.” Our cupboards and freezers are filled with food, but, “there’s nothing to eat.” The double car garage is too small, it’s unreasonable to expect siblings to share the same bathroom, and having only three TVs is not enough.

    Recently, I made a $1.06 purchase. I had two dollar bills but no loose change. Irritated, I left the store with a handful of unwanted change. Several minutes later. I realized this was a classic example of a First World “problem”. Millions of Third World citizens would be ecstatic if they had ninety-four cents in their pocket because it could make the difference of eating or not eating that day. I need to do a lot better job of reminding myself how blessed I am.


    How can you change a First World “problem” into a moment of gratitude?

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