Do you ever think to yourself, Today sure was a hard day at work?
Well of course, you say. This went wrong and then this happened which put me in a worse mood. Before feeling all sorry for yourself and listening to the violins play, think to yourself what others go through around the world, each and every day, to make a fraction of what you make.
We were going on a bike ride on Kim Bong Island just off the city of Hoi An, Vietnam. We were visiting different places on the island to see how some of the locals worked.
We first went to a boat making mill on the coast where massive tree trunks were submerged in the river. Long strips of wood lay around, and sweaty men worked tirelessly. The tree trunks soak in the river for one year to prepare them for milling. After twelve months of soaking, these men drag the giant trees out of the river, saw them into planks and bend them so they can be used to build boats. Even though these men work in harsh conditions all day, they only make one hundred dollars a month, less than what most people spend on a weekly grocery visit in the U.S.
We next came up to a small run down house. Inside were an old man and woman. The old man sat behind a sort of stove, spooning liquid rice paste onto the flat eye over the fire where he cooked the liquid into a round, squishy sheet. After cooling, the woman took the rice sheets and ran them through a sort of wringer that cut the patties into thin noodles. The couple does this all day every day, selling one large bag of noodles for only seven cents. So if you think your work is “so difficult,” remember that you probably work in a much nicer environment, with shorter hours and better pay. That will change the way you think.
Our last stop was another small house. Like the one before, there was no air conditioning or heating of any kind, and no glass or screened windows. We walked inside the main room to see a grown woman, her elderly mother, and a twelve year old girl setting up what appeared to be a giant loom. Their job was to make the grass mats you might see at a market or beach store. The young girl, the daughter of the grown woman and the granddaughter of the older woman, works along side them each morning before going to school in the afternoon. She receives no kind of “allowance,” working with her family is just a way of life.
Together, the three generations of women worked to weave these giant mats. The women definitely had a system to their weaving, their hands flew as they worked and they didn’t even verbally communicate to one another. One of these mats takes two hours to make (which is a lot quicker than it takes me to make a 4″ x 4″ pot holder) and costs only two dollars for all this work. Between the two adult women, that only comes to fifty cents an hour. That isn’t even minimum wage.
After seeing the ways these people all worked, I definitely have a much greater appreciation for what I have and the opportunities I know I will have, like going to college and getting a well paying job. It also made me realize how pathetic my problems are compared to theirs. From now on, when I have a “bad day,” I will remember these people and keep in mind how wonderful my problems are compared to theirs.