I got sick last week. On my back, high fever, “if I don’t leave this exact position the world will be ok” sick. One day, a lot of caring friends, and a handful of medications and I was back in fighting form. But I was thinking about what it took me to get there. There was the Advil and antibiotic that I just had to grab from under my bed. The friend I sent to the market to buy crackers and soda. The fan that ran when we had electricity. The running water in the bathroom next door that I could use to cool down. Let’s not even talk about the fact that I live with 80 nurses or nurses-to-be who could do basically anything I needed.
The extent of my privilege sneaks up on me some days. Most days, it is the obvious things. I have a computer and an iPhone. I have a car at home. There was never a question of if I could go to school. I have traveled. But as I was curled up in a miserable ball on my bed, wishing for air conditioning and my mom, I recognized my privilege once again. Everyday at the hospital, I hear about patients who can’t afford medicines, can’t afford lab tests, can’t afford food to take their medications with. It is exhausting and could quickly clear out both my bank account and emotional reserves. So you build up walls and it stops affecting you so much. Great for getting through the everyday. But it certainly does stop you from seeing the human element: until you find yourself faced with it.
As I make my way through the ever-increasing stack of development literature I want to read, there is a lot of discussion of basic rights: people deserve clean drinking water, food, shelter medications. After last week, I want to make this list more explicit. People deserve crackers and Sprite when their stomach is sick. They deserve Tylenol and the occasional dose of Ciproflaxcin. They deserve water to cool their sweating brows and electricity to run a fan by. And they deserve a bed to curl up on.