The phrase is quite possibly one of the greatest oxymorons uttered by our generation. So easily, it slips off our tongues. You check your latest bank statement: $19.83. Looks like you won’t be going out to P.F. Chang’s anytime soon. “I’m a poor college student.” But $600 for textbooks? That’s nothing at all. Don’t forget about your iClicker, notebooks and futon for the dorm. Oh, and did I mention the $42,652 out-of-state tuition, room and board on top of everything? “I’m a poor college student.”
Look, I’m not a fan of paying for supplies either. And I agree that we — students — often are overcharged for our necessities.
But “poor” and the label of “college student” hold a strong juxtaposition. Education is a narrow gate that the majority of our friends around the world do not get to experience. How can you be poor when you are learning how to develop your talents and express your passions?
You already have trouble understanding your Asian teaching assistant. And now, a Korean — one who doesn’t drive a Lamborghini — is trying to speak to you about education? What the heck, right? Contrary to stereotypes, it wasn’t only my Asian culture that taught me to be grateful for my education; it was a friend I met in Africa.
Allow me to introduce you to my Zambian friend, Nixon. He and I met during the last day of my mission trip to the southern African nation. Nixon desires to be a businessman when he grows up. He enjoys mathematics and soccer, and wants to start a family one day. He lives in a hut with his parents, two brothers and sister. His mom and dad spend their week selling fruits and vegetables so they can afford to send Nixon to school.
Thus, Nixon had not seen his parents in weeks. Not to mention he already walks five miles every morning just to get to his school. The perseverance and sacrifice of Nixon’s parents is a testament to the value of education. To them, school is more than a matter of going to class and writing theses, it is the groundwork upon which their son will build his future.
You might complain about your 8 a.m. class today. Nixon won’t.
Through Nixon’s story, I learned that education is a sensible investment, one that many across the globe do not have the privilege of participating in. This fortuity is not solely for my benefit, but the benefit of others. The need is phenomenal.
Numbers don’t lie, unlike words, which often do. There are more slaves now than all other times in history combined, according to an analysis by End It, an organization dedicated to reducing slavery. This includes forced labor, the multibillion dollar sex industry, child trafficking and more. An estimated 27 million in bondage. Half of the 600,000 to 800,000 people trafficked across international borders every year are children. Fifty-five percent of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. So if you live on $105 a day ($38,325 annually), then you are among the world’s richest 2.1 percent.
And here’s the one that grieves me the most. About 43 percent of the world’s people groups, about 7,272, have little to no access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, according to the Joshua Project. Unreached and unengaged from the message that will satisfy their souls. The prevalence of material suffering is burdened by spiritual suffering.
Another’s misfortune is not a pedestal for personal thankfulness. That’s narcissism at its worst. Uncle Ben was right: with great power comes great responsibility. Education is a great responsibility, and with it, we have the even greater privilege of blessing others.
Some will use their MSU degree for the ordinary: paying off loans, buying a house, a 401k — which all are good. But there are a few who will choose the extraordinary, whether by feeding the hungry, sending orphans to school or being a voice for the voiceless. Through their talents and passions, they will lessen these statistics that plague our world.
As we enter the grind of the fall semester, let us remember the blessing of our education. We attend one of the nation’s top public universities. A college degree opens up opportunities that are seldom available to those without one. Connections made during your undergraduate years set you up for future success. Above all, education bolsters us onto our full potential by unleashing the power of the mind.
You walk around a 5,200-acre campus, carrying hundreds of dollars worth of material in your $80 backpack. You have your future ahead of you and the opportunity to invest into it. You have nothing to envy, Spartan. You are rich — filthy rich.
Derek Kim is a journalism junior. Reach him at email@example.com.
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