For those of us who live in developed countries, it’s easy to take simple things like sanitation, healthcare, and public education for granted. But for millions of people around the globe, those simple things are scarce or even nonexistent. It’s important for each of us to gain a deeper understanding of the realities of living in underdeveloped countries, and to put that knowledge to good use.
People living in underdeveloped countries have a lot to teach us about gratitude and empathy. The more we learn to look beyond what we have, the more we’ll be able to understand and advocate for those in need. Of course, we can gain the most perspective by living and interacting with people in these areas, but unfortunately that’s usually not possible (or advisable) for most of us.
Read on to discover how we can gain invaluable life lessons from underdeveloped countries — even without traversing the globe.
No Need to Travel Across the Globe
It’s no secret that immersion is the best way to learn any culture’s lessons. With that in mind, you may be tempted to hop on the next plane so you can experience life in underdeveloped countries and start making a difference as quickly as possible. You might wonder how you can still learn from underdeveloped countries if you’re unable to visit them.
Thankfully, there are many things that we can learn from the various vibrant cultures of underdeveloped countries — all without ever stepping foot outside of our home nations. And it’s not just a question of practicality — in fact, more and more people are realizing that short-term “voluntourism” trips hurt far more than they help.
Understanding local communities and economies is a work that takes several years and lots of in person interaction. Because most of us don’t have the ability to involve ourselves to that degree, we can help better from right where we live. To start, look into organizations and initiatives that are already on the ground working in underdeveloped countries.
These organizations have usually existed in underdeveloped countries for several years, and they have both firm relationships with locals and a thorough understanding of how to truly help these underdeveloped countries without accidentally creating extra problems for local economies.
As these organizations help you to understand the people that they serve, they will likely offer practical resources to get you started. On your own time, you can seek out information that comes directly from the citizens of underdeveloped countries.
What do they say about their own culture, needs, and hopes for the future? By listening to and amplifying their voices, you will already be making a small difference in the way they are perceived by the world and the number of people willing to join their cause.
Understanding & Acknowledging Privilege
Don’t stress too much about picking the right charity to support — just pick one and get involved. As you get involved, you’ll start to learn more and more about the situation of the people that you’re serving, likely prompting you to feel greater gratitude for things in your life that you may not have considered.
When we pause to consider the aspects of our lives that we take for granted, we often focus on material possessions and the convenience of our lifestyle. And with good reason — living in developed countries allows us access to just about any material convenience we could possibly want.
But convenience isn’t just about fast food or online shopping. It’s also about universal access to basic necessities like clean drinking water, clothing, and work opportunities. Without gaining a broader perspective of the world, it’s easy for us to overlook just how many basic human rights are denied to those living in underdeveloped countries.
As we work to help those in underdeveloped countries, we are faced with the reality of how privileged we truly are. Does this mean we should sink into guilt and shame over the conveniences we enjoy? Certainly not! Instead, our response should involve:
- Gratitude for what we have
- Conscious attempts to reduce our own consumerist tendencies
- Efforts to make basic human rights and necessities more accessible to all
As we open our eyes to the privileges we take for granted, we develop a much greater sense of humble gratitude for those material blessings that we have.
Cultivating an Attitude of Empathy and Respect
Another important lesson that underdeveloped countries teach us is the relationship between pity, respect, and empathy. The word “pity” has a somewhat negative connotation in today’s world; remember that in the Savior’s time, it was associated with feelings of compassion and tenderness toward the needy. Today, we must remember to balance those feelings of compassion with respect toward those we serve.
To develop this respect, we need to understand. Don’t wait for your charity organization to teach you everything about the culture of the nations that you serve — take initiative and learn about them on your own time. This time, though, don’t just look at the things that they lack or ask for. Instead, use technology to immerse yourself in the music, literature, and art of these nations.
Listen to their music on YouTube, watch videos about their art, look up their architecture, history, and innovation. As you see the remarkable beauty that these cultures have to offer, you will undoubtedly gain an even greater respect for these cultures. Realize that they are not just people with fewer resources but rather dazzling communities with rich heritages.
Yes, many communities are underprivileged, and we should pity them — but only in the biblical sense that is tenderness and a Christlike desire to aid. As defined by Psychology Today, pity is “a feeling of discomfort at the distress of one or more sentient beings.” The danger of pity is that this discomfort can lead to feelings of superiority or disgust — and this must never happen to us.
Rather, consider empathy: “a person’s ability to recognize and share the emotions of another person.” Empathy allows us to view life from another person’s perspective and to understand their thoughts and feelings. To feel empathy, try to put yourself in the shoes of the people that you serve. Picture their life — but not just the less fortunate parts.
Try to feel their pride — and their pain — and then act in a way that respects both. Simply feeling sorry for someone doesn’t solve anything. Christ asked us to feed His sheep, not just to feel sorry for them. We should let empathy and compassion propel us deeper into understanding the needs and suffering of people in underdeveloped countries — and then into actually doing something about it.
Learn More About Underdeveloped Countries
When we think of underdeveloped nations, we usually think solely of how we can aid them. Rarely do we stop to realize how greatly these nations can (and do) aid us. Every moment that we spend interacting with and serving these communities, as we do it in Christ’s way, we grow in gratitude and Christlike empathy. We receive the opportunity to exercise our faith by acting in service to our brothers and sisters.
To learn more about how you can join efforts to end poverty in underdeveloped countries around the world, visit Anchored Purpose Box.