Scarcity and Abundance

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

We live, primarily, from one of two attitudes Scarcity and Abundance. Scarcity is a perspective of fear and lack. I look at life and see what is missing instead of what is available. My income, work, family, achievements are never enough. Something is always missing.

Abundance is the perspective of love and gratitude. I see what is right in my job, family, income, living environment. I experience wonderment about the gift of life and beauties of the world, my friendships and associations. I see what is rather than what is not.

The truth is that both scarcity and abundance exist side by side. I can build a case for scarcity. I can also build a case for abundance. My mental state is like a tuner on a radio dial. I can move that dial between hip-hop, country, rock, easy listening, or talk. What I tune into is what I hear.

There is no greater testament of this principle of scarcity and abundance than studying the lives of people who suffer the severest deprivations. Victims of war, concentration camps, or poverty, often tell moving accounts of how they transcended deplorable circumstances and discovered joy and meaning in life.

We need not look far to find such stories of scarcity and abundance. The international best-selling book,  City of Joy, describes modern day life of the citizens of a slum in the city of Calcutta, India.

  • 70,000 people live within a geographical area 3 times the size of a football field.
  • Most children have never seen a bird, flower, or pond.
  • Most people live with 10-12 others in a single room dwelling not more than 150 square feet in size. Those not so fortunate live on the sidewalk under a sheet of plastic.
  • Ninety percent of the residents live on a single rupee per day which is enough money buy a half pound of rice.
  • A person is fortunate to have one good meal per day, consisting of a banana, griddle cake and couple of teaspoons of rice.
  • Most children and adults suffer from serious and chronic illness, from malnutrition to smallpox, dysentery to tuberculosis.
  • Of 23 million children born in Calcutta each year, only 3 million will grow up to be healthy, nourished adults.
  • There are no private bathrooms or toilets. People stand in line for up to a couple of hours every morning to use a public latrine.
  • Most of the year (8 months) the populace live with sweltering heat which can be between 115 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 3 weeks at a time.
  • During the monsoons the rainfall will be so heavy that it will flood the streets and into the houses 3 and 4 feet deep. The latrines will at times back up and human waste will flow through the streets and even into their homes.

The conditions of the City of Joy are unimaginable to us, even those who have lived with poverty and hardship and scarcity and abundance. And yet, millions of people live their entire lives trapped by such conditions with barely a flicker of hope or escape. What is most incredible about them is not the horrendously depraved living conditions. What is incredible is the fact that what is most meaningful in life (hope, service, friendship, laughter, love, and joy) is found in the lives of these people every day. In the words of Dominque La Pierre, author of the book:

“The miracle of these concentration camps, was that the accumulation of disastrous elements was counterbalanced by other factors that allowed their inhabitants not merely to remain fully human but even to transcend their conditions and become models of humanity. In these slums people actually put love and mutual support into practice. They knew how to be tolerant of all creeds and castes, how to give respect to a stranger, how to show charity toward beggars, cripples, lepers, and even the insane. Here the weak were helped, not trampled upon. Orphans were instantly adopted by their neighbors and old people were cared for and revered by their children.”

Is there any greater evidence of the principles of gratitude and scarcity and abundance? Indeed, our ability to experience joy and love are as much a function of our perspective as they are the circumstances of our lives.

Would you like to read more about abundance in life? Have a look at our blog post Seeing the goodness and abundance of life.

About Roger K. Allen
Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation and family development. His tools and methods have helped tens of thousands of people live happier and more effective lives. To learn more, visit>.

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