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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

First-World Problems

As I was checking my emails at work, I saw a story regarding a lifejacket donation in Fiji Islands (where I was born).  It truly warmed my heart.

I hope it reminds usto be grateful for all we have.

These amazing young Fijian children travel by BOAT daily to get to school, rain or shine. Until recently, they didn't even have lifejackets to keep them safe while making the daily trip.  Thanks to a generous donor by a local business owner, they now each have a lifejacket and can make the journey safely. 

In the 1960s, children would make the same daily journey, but would have to paddle themselves. Can you imagine? We definitely have “first-world problems” in America, as I myself have countlessly witnessed young children (as young as two years old) walking around with their iPads, iPhones, Kindles, and everything else electronic and expensive. So many of those same children are not even grateful for their dozen expensive material possessions – often doting a snotty attitude, showing disrespect toward their parents and elders and the wanting of everything in sight without understanding the value and struggle it takes to get it (at least for the averagemiddle-class American).

The story made me think of my son. He is a FIRST-GENERATION American citizen, as Avin and I, along with our parents and families were all born in Fiji. We didn't grow up like the average American child. There was often only one television in an entire village, that had only one channel. If you were fortunate enough to live in the city, like we did, you had a TV, and even a washer and drier. You were considered "elite." My parents had great jobs, they were college educated – both of which in Fiji are a rarity.  Both of which put us in a different class rank.  Yet, we still danced in the rain, literally. We played with pots and pans, dirt and rocks, swung on swings hanging from mango trees in our nani's backyard. My brothers, cousins and I would eat from one LARGE plate. Not because we had to, but because we loved to. I remember this fondly. My nani would sit us all down in her backyard and put a mound of food on a plate that was the equivalent to seven or eight plates. We would all sit around the circular plate and chow down. We loved eating together... all of us digging in, smiling and laughing.

Some of my fondest memories as a child are in Fiji, growing up with little yet feeling like I had the world at my fingertips. We were taught respect at a VERY young age.  We were taught the value of everything we owned, and shared even the little we had.  My father, for example, grew up in a household with very humble beginnings.  There were eight children in his family, including him.  I remember him telling me stories of how his family could only afford ONE candy bar, yet they would cut into small pieces and share it amongst all eight children.  This always makes me smile.

I want this for my son, Elijah. I don't want him to be consumed with electronics, glued to the TV, uninterested in sports and playing outside, getting dirty, riding his bike or reading a book. Most of all, I want him to be closely connected to his roots. I cannot emphasize how crucial this is for me.  And it will be a greater challenge as our families in Fiji have almost all migrated to other countries – going back now will not be the same as the yearly trips my brothers and I would make to reconnect with our families and stay true to our roots.
Elijah may be American, but he will always be Fijian (and Nepali) first and foremost.

The story in the Fiji Times made me take a moment this morning to reflect and be thankful. I hope I can teach my son to do the same. Always be thankful. Never be greedy, spiteful and disrespectful. It’ll be a struggle in a first-world country surrounded by luxuries we forget to be thankful for, but it will be a priority in my life, as a parent.

Have a great Tuesday and a great week!


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