I grew up in a large family; my mother stayed home and my father worked. While we were never destitute, we certainly were never rolling in the dough. I got a paper route as soon as I was old enough and a job the moment I turned 16. I learned to pay for anything that I needed or wanted, so I certainly never thought of myself as spoiled.
That is, until I flew overseas.
I spent some time living in a small town outside of Moscow. When I first arrived at the apartment that was to be my new home, I could barely stand the smell of stews that had seeped into the wood stairs over the years. The carpets, soviet-era couches and beds- they all disgusted me. I was certain I would get lice or some scarring disease.
All in all, the entire place was too much for me.
Fast forward one month. I don’t notice a thing about the smell; I sleep, play, and work out on the carpets. Not a worry or fear in the world. Great on me for adjusting to terrible conditions, right? Wrong. I found out later that I was living just a few miles down the road from Vladimir Putin, and that my small apartment was one of the better apartments available.
In fact, just down the road, wealthy mafia members chose similar apartments, which, to them, were lavish.
It was at this point that I realized I was spoiled because I am an American. Our country is certainly not without its own trials. There are those who live in less than desirable circumstances and do not have the best food that they might wish for. That said, the average lifestyle of an American far exceeds the lifestyle for nearly any other middle of the road individual in any other country.
Russia was more than I could have expected, and in some ways, better than I had imagined.
More than anything, though, I was grateful that I learned that although Russia is a first world country that has a GDP of 1.5 trillion, their upper middle class held nothing in comparison to my lower class upbringings. Now that is something to be grateful for, Americans.