I originally thought I'd write about how terrible the economy is and my worry that we'll soon be starring in "Great Depression - The Sequel." I've personally lost over $100,000 in 401K savings, and after my divorce and the recession, I am broke. I even borrowed "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck from the library; I figured I'd better start boning up on how to survive the very worst of financial disasters. (Fortunately, I feel absolutely zero compulsion to load everything I own into my VW Beetle and drive across country to pick peaches. Apparently, I would make a lousy Joad.)
Anyway, as I was ramping up to whine, I saw a map that changed my mind. Since a picture paints a thousand words, I'll let you look at how many people in this world live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1 a day:
So even as we fret over lost retirement funds and increasing unemployment, let us remember how much we have here in America - and how we have a responsibility to others much less fortunate than ourselves. This puts a whole new spin into the old Hollies record, "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother." Is there anything we can do to fight hunger and poverty in this world? Here are a few ideas:
I don't know about you, but the only way I can live on less than a dollar a day is to stay home and not turn on the computer. The downturn has revived any notion I ever had of frugality, but this is different. We're lucky; very few in the US live in extreme poverty. Western Europe, Russia, and Australia are also faring well. But look at South America and China. Six to 20% of these folks are living on less than a buck a day. And compared to Africa, the South Americans and Chinese are living like overfed royalty.
- Provide microloans to the poor via OptInNow. As the organization's website says, "You give a gift that funds a loan. That loan builds a business. And that business helps hard working families out of poverty. When the loan is repaid, it’s recycled, and loaned again and again. It’s giving that keeps going." As an entrepreneur, I like this idea a lot. Giving as little as $25 to start a business? Priceless.
- Knit something for Afghans For Afghans. The organization "sends hand-knit and crocheted blankets and sweaters, vests, hats, mittens, and socks to the beleaguered people of Afghanistan." I've knitted several pairs of mittens for this non-profit. It really warms my heart to know that I am keeping someone warm in one of the least fortunate countries in the world.
- Stop buying your daily latte or Diet Coke and donate that money to charity. You might put Starbucks out of business, but you could make a real difference to a family in the Third World.
I'll close this Steinbeck quote: "How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can't scare him - he has known a fear beyond every other." Do what you can to quell that fear, to feed those wretched bellies. It is our obligation to each other - and to ourselves, too.