Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Measurements of Wealth: Orange Piths and Toilet Paper

An orange is made up of many parts. There's the rind (the orange outer part), the inner part of the rind (it's white and is called the pericap/albedo), the pith (the white thread-like parts), and the inner juicy part (that you eat). Parts of an Orange. Now I can sometimes be a picky eater and as such, I take the extra time to peel away the pericap/albedo and pith that's attached to my orange segments. Sometimes I even peel away the skin of the orange and just eat the juice filled pieces. 

Now that we're on the same page about what exactly the pith is, what does pith, and toilet paper for that matter, have to do with measuring wealth?

The world measures wealth by whether you are above or below the official poverty line. It measure whether you are lower, middle, or upper class. It measures how many meals you eat a day (plus snacks) and how far you have to walk to get water. It measures whether your children will ever have to work. The world measures wealth by the material possessions you own.

In my mind, those who have enough (enough food, enough clothing, enough water, enough shelter, etc.) or more than enough are wealthy. Those who don't have enough are poor.

I have never starved. A few times in my life, I have been abnormally hungry, but I have never been starving. If I'm mildly hungry, I take the time to get rid of the pith and the skin of the orange segments. When I am hungrier, I peel off the rind and start eating, despite my distaste for the pith. When my supper is delayed by more than two hours, I discover that I don't abhor certain foods, I just don't prefer them.

I measure wealth by how picky you can be with your food.

Growing up, I lived in a solidly middle class home. We always had a roll of toilet paper on the dispenser, plus additional rolls in the cupboard under the sink, plus more in the linen closet. If the dispenser ran out of toilet paper, we could reach the ones under the sink. If there were no rolls under the sink, we could call out and get a new roll provided by a cooperating family member within a minute. What was the result of this abundance of toilet paper? I don't feel a need to check for toilet paper until I'm ready to use it.

A while back, I was on a mission trip, in another country. All was well until we were at a local plaza/park. I needed to use the restroom. I made my way (alone) to the public women's restroom. I was ready for toilet paper. That's when I looked and realized two things: 1) there was no toilet paper in my stall. 2) my foreign language 101 class never taught my the word for toilet paper in the native language of the country. I tried to say I needed bathroom paper, but got no response. I had to wait for an English-speaking group member to come in and assist me. Later in the week, another public restroom had the toilet paper in the general restroom, on the wall, but not in each stall. I almost was stuck without toilet paper again, but thankfully I checked before it was too late. That habit lasted until I was home again, where another roll of toilet paper is always within arms-reach, provided I remember to add it to my shopping list.

I measure wealth by how readily I assume that I will always have access to basic sanitary items, such as toilet paper.

How do you measure wealth?


  1. We are truly blessed. We have all of our needs taken care of. I cannot even imagine a parent watching her child starving. Mom