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What is it Like to be Average?

It was the early 60’s and a more affluent generation was entering the world scene. Middle-class travel was opening up and more young people were traveling aboard. With the increased travel came a stronger awareness of living conditions in the world’s poorest nations. Under the leadership of President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps was formed on March 1, 1961 to deal with the world’s problems. In subsequent years a stronger awareness of disparities in the world came into focus. 

At that same time, a story began to circulate that described the world’s “average” family. The comparison between the U. S. and the “average family in the world” was based on an average income of $7,000 a year in the U. S. To move from the high level of U. S. affluence and become an “average” family one would have to:  

  1. Remove all of the furniture in your house, except for a few blankets and a beat-up kitchen table, and 1 chair.
  2. Remove all of the clothing possessed by the family, except for 1 dress, 1 old suit, a shirt or blouse, and 1 pair of shoes for the head of the family.
  3. Empty the cupboard of food, except for a small bag of flour, some sugar, salt, some moldy potatoes, a handful of onions, and a dish of fried beans.
  4. Dismantle the bathroom, shut off the water, and remove all of the electrical wiring from the house.
  5. Take away the house, and move the family into an old, dilapidated tool shed.
  6. Cancel the newspaper, and magazines (Today that would be removing the television, all computers, and all other sources of social media contact).
  7. Remove any access to police or fire protection. 
  8. Put the nearest clinic or hospital 10 to 20 miles away and put a midwife in charge rather than a doctor.
  9. Discard the bank account, all stock certificates. pension plan, insurance policies and put in place a total savings of $5.00.
  10. Give the head of the family 3 acres of land to cultivate by hand to feed his family. Then have him give one-third of the proceeds to the landlord, and 10% of what remains to those who supplied the funds to purchase grain and fertilizer. 
  11. Take away 25 to 30 years of life expectancy from each member of the family.

This was the 60’s when the “average family” in the U.S. was earning $7,000.00. By 2019 the median income had reached $68,703.00. For families in the U. S. that is a 1,000% increase, while in Malawi life in the village is still alarmingly close to the position it was in the 1960s. Obviously helping the poor to get on their feet is a long way from being complete.

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