This is a story about an event that happened when I was a know-it-all twenty-something Army sergeant stationed in Austria while it was still a four-power partitioned country. (For many years after WWII, Austria and Germany were divided and governed by four countries – England, France, the USSR and the United States)
Our Army base was in Austria about 12 miles from the Danube River which, at the time, was the dividing line between the US and the Russian zones at the height of the Cold War. Things were very tense back in those days. On the base we had the usual civilian amenities such as a PX, a movie theater, a small golf course and a Service Club where they had pool tables, a snack bar, a library and a small theater where they put on occasional shows. The Service Club also had a photo lab where I hung out most of the time. The photo lab was managed by a young Austrian civilian by the name of Gus. Gus was a sharp young guy a few years older than I and he and I soon became very good friends. (Years later I helped him come to the US and got him a job at the company where I was working but that’s another story.)
One day Gus and I were talking about this and that and life in the US and I mentioned the dessert we all know as Jello. Gus had never heard of anything like that and so I told him that I’d buy a few packages at the PX for him to take home and try.
A few days later when I saw him at the photo lab he said, “We tried that Jello stuff but it never set up like you said it would.”
I asked, “How long did you leave it in the refrigerator?”
He got a puzzled look on his face and he said, “We don’t have a refrigerator.”
At that moment I learned an important and sobering lesson about how good we have it here in America. Smart-ass punk that I was, I assumed that everyone in the whole world owned a refrigerator. Even growing up during the Great Depression my family and all of my friends’ families had refrigerators – didn’t everybody?
I read an article once that said that – don’t complain to me if I don’t have the exact numbers – more than 30% of the Iraqi people do not have safe drinking water. Incredible! And just think about what the conditions must be like in much more primitive countries like Somalia. Such basic things that we take so much for granted are simply unavailable in most of the rest of the world.
Be thankful and appreciative that you live in this great country that we call America.
©2017 Paul Burri
Paul Burri is a retired inventor & entrepreneur. writer, columnist. life-long woodworker, photographer, general know-it-all. He lives with his wife in Santa Barbara CA