After living in Peru for nearly a decade, Jim Killon was shocked to discover the excess lifestyle he encountered in the U.S.
After more than seven years away, I returned to the United States for a short visit. With the exception of brief “visa runs” out of Peru, my time has been exclusively spent working here with the children of Changes for New Hope. We engage destitute kids who are gaining traction against incomprehensible odds, to develop a life of dignity and opportunity. Even after seven years, it is still a game of inches. We make due with the help and support that we receive from a small number of compassionate friends.
With the situations on the ground here so evident and desperately bleak, I wondered why so few open their hearts to help these kids – as of last year, there were more than 2000. Even many of those who have volunteered with us and personally witnessed the plight of the children, experience “convenient amnesia” upon their return to their first world countries. This is not a rebuke, I just wondered why. How people can forget such suffering is utterly astounding to me because I am never more than a thought away from it.
Then I visited the 2016 version of the United States.
Maybe it is the same in other first world developed nations. Kindly understand that my awareness is a mere nod of condolence when I say that you people are drowning in a thick mire of superfluous and ridiculous non-issues, pseudo-problems, and faux-concerns while real life and actual human conditions completely escape you. You eat like tomorrow has been cancelled and wonder why your heart is ready to explode. You roll through relationships like a speed dating champion and wonder why love is so elusive. You buy needless stuff that you will never use and wonder why you are always broke. You are far more moved to despair by your daughter’s dead goldfish while a billion starving children in the world would never send a twinge of conscience through your thoughts.
I was particularly blown away by the television advertisements. I refuse to own a television in Peru, opting to focus on writing, art projects, personal development and reading. It is part of my own choice to better myself but when there is a television on, I’ll watch it. American television. Is there no end to products and services for every and any itch, scratch, condition, need, greed, legal matter, car dent, emotional issue, substance abuse, added sex appeal, weight loss, cleaning supplies, hair replacement, augmentation and love enhancement? After the commercials, the choices on hundreds of channels numb human brains, an actual medical fact incidentally, with reality shows, Hollywood gossip, blathering solutions to problems invented by people paid to rattle the populace and instill fear and concern for at least thirty minutes and the never ending clown show of the upcoming presidential elections.
It is only my humble opinion but if this is the pool that America has to choose a national leader from, you all best start adjusting to the idea of spending Chinese money now. America used to stand for something. You people once aspired to greatness and demanded great leadership from those elected. What you are now being forced to settle for is an international embarrassment.
Would it be too much to ask of the American people to wake the hell up? You are so much more than what you have allowed yourselves to become. Your major concerns are primarily yourself, and perhaps your immediate household. Madison Avenue, Wall Street and Washington play on your fears. A little faux- concern and head shaking around the water cooler at work is no substitute for getting involved in making yourselves the best people that you can be. Opportunities for self-improvement are available all around you.
Understandably, it is impossible to care about anyone else if you evidently don’t get your own act together. The excesses of consumerism are absolutely insane. Do you have any idea how much money would be in your bank account if you bought what you actually needed and resisted that fifth Rolex watch or another… fill in your own blank here? Imagine what your relationship would be like if you were treated like a prince because you treated your lady like a princess. (This one took me fifty-six years myself guys, showing that there is always hope.) Imagine watching a motivational video on YouTube to figure out how to make positive changes in your own life. Imagine shaking off the faux concern, the pseudo-compassion and insincerity that prevails in our charitable efforts and you actually stepped up to becoming a dedicated participant, a citizen of the world and grab a piece of the suffering somewhere in the world, and help to change it. There are thousands to choose from.
This is what I did starting in 2009, here in Peru. I was everything I just described. I felt justified because my circle of friends all lived the same way. We had our lives carved out for ourselves and liked it just the way it was. Looking back at them now, some continued as alcoholics, unhealthy, obese people, self-referencing, misogynists and racists.
Impossible to see from the inside, but step outside of your lives and see yourselves from the perspective of Peruvian children living in adobe houses with dirt floors eating rice, potatoes and maybe just a piece of chicken, most days. Other days, there may be nothing at all. Side by side with those kids changed my life, in wonderful ways. I’m a better person now. Not better than you, no one is better than another person. In my minimalist lifestyle, I wake up happy, healthy, content and eager to reach out to the thousands that I share my life and resources with year after year. If we all could share, just a little bit, get our heads and hearts in a better place again, maybe the world would get better, starting with ourselves.
Learn more at www.changesfornewhope.org