I learned in my Human Neuropsychology class that there are two windows in a child’s life that are crucial for successful brain development. Of course we know that the brain of an infant and a toddler is placid, rapidly changing, ever growing and filling with knowledge and discovery of the world at every moment. However, the two windows, past the stage of infancy, that are critical for pre-frontal lobe development in children, this area involving the essential learning of decision-making skills are between ages 4-6 and 11-14. Countless studies have shown that socioeconomic conditions have a heavy influence on these brain development years.
From my Human Happiness class I learned that unlike what many believe in the United States today, money doesn’t buy happiness. I believe, and studies show that this is true, with the big exception of those living with not enough money to afford their basic needs. Without the meeting of basic needs it becomes a struggle just to get by each day. Not only do people living below the poverty line have to worry about food, shelter and other essentials for the survival of both themselves and their children but they also are faced with the struggle of the debilitating lack of ability to make proper decisions. The poor have so many factors going against them that it makes it utterly impossible to be blissful. Some may argue that the poor don’t know what they’re missing in life.
My question is, if you know what they’re missing out on with all the opportunities that life has to bring happiness, does this then create an obligation to help and alleviate some of the disadvantages that the poor are faced with? Sure, ignorance isn’t always bliss but knowledge doesn’t seem all that blissful either. The more communities I visit, the individuals I meet the children I see playing, the more exposure I have brings about more distress, sadness and tension. A space of discomfort that is only slightly filled with the idea that myself, along with thirty of my classmates (as well as many others that are involved with the Global Poverty minor at UC Berkeley) are all working with different organizations all around the world that spend countless hours trying to make the lives of the poor just a little bit better. We know that our work this summer won’t even begin to make a dent in the improvements that need to be made to give the next generation of children born into poverty the opportunities they rightfully deserve, especially in that critical time of brain development.
This little guy I met now has the proper accommodations to develop and learn to his full potential and has the rightful possibility of a successful future.
Ignorance isn’t bliss. Knowledge isn’t bliss. Then how do we reach this state of bliss that we are all searching for? I don’t really know exactly but maybe we can start by accepting the fact that perhaps we can’t heal the world, but there’s no reason to believe the effort isn’t worthwhile. While every community, family, individual, and child may bring a bit of sadness to my heart, each is a new opportunity and reminder that change is possible. Every roof built is an example of that possibility. My new friends here was given the shelter he needs and is one step closer, one struggle less needed to worry about, to the much deserved environment for the proper brain development.
I whole heartedly believe that we have enough resources on this planet to feed, house and educate everyone who is born on it, we just need people on board believe the same thing and putting in the effort to make it happen. With the disadvantages the poor have, not only the lack of resources but also lacking the proper brain development, they can’t be expected to do it alone. I’m proud to be apart of a team that believes that same thing and that works 9 plus hours a day to repair the world in the places that it may be lacking, one techo (“roof”) at a time. This is the hope and possibility that brings bliss to my life.