Today is Blog Action Day and thousands of bloggers around the world will unite to write about a single subject: poverty. My take on the subject will be personal, rather than a discussion of macro-economics.
Long ago, I took a class in college that brought to my attention the horrible disparity between the wealth enjoyed by most people in the United States and the amount of wealth enjoyed by many people in the rest of the world.
Here is a telling statistic—annual per capita GDP. (In simple terms, that means the annual national income divided by the number of people in the country. It's a measure of how much wealth is theoretically available to people if everyone in a nation shared it equally.) I'm listing some representative countries below. For a complete list, you can go here.
Democratic Republic of Congo--$300
United States of America--$45,800
Does that kind of disparity make you feel ashamed? That's the impact it has on me.
It's easy to be overwhelmed by statistics like these and to become paralyzed with the thought that there is nothing I can do. But we can all do something, and if we did, it would make a difference in this world. I've told this story before, but I'll repeat it now. When I was in my mid-twenties, I was considering taking a Caribbean vacation. But the thought of the huge income gap between rich and poor that exists in that part of the world troubled me. In the end, I decided I didn't want to feed the big corporations who ran the hotels and put together vacation packages, Instead, I realized that I'd rather feed a child. So I sponsored a child through Compassion International. They assigned me a boy in Haiti named Josue, and I sponsored him for 14 years until he reached adulthood. My actions did little to correct the economic injustices in that country, and yet . . . because of them, one person who might otherwise be still trapped in poverty received an education. He now works as a professional musician.
My husband and I have sponsored several other children throughout the years, and each of them has gained better nutrition and education at very little cost to us. Does this solve the problems of institutional poverty and global income disparity? No, but it does provide individuals with the tools they need to better their lives.
Even in these times of financial insecurity, most of us can do something--even if it is buying a few cans of food for a food panty. In fact, in times like these, it is more important to act than ever before.
If you still don't think such actions make much difference to anyone, let me leave you with at recent letter from one of the children we sponsor in Africa.
Dear Michael and Ruth,
How are you, my lovely friends, and all your family? I am writing to you this letter particularly to thank you for the Christmas gift which you sent for me and my family. (Ruth's note: Gifts are limited to $10.) I used this money to buy a trousers, shirt, a hen, and food and meat. Home is fine, and all my people are fine. I also take this opportunity to thank you for the birthday gift that you sent for me. I bought a hen, clothes, and food and meat. I celebrated my birthday and it was great fun. I am at school and doing well. Pray for me to continue doing well. May God bless you.
It's been a tight year for Michael and me, but we are not cutting our support for Asuman or Doris from our budget.
Please consider what you can do to help eradicate poverty.