Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Dignity is more important to the human spirit than wealth." - Jacqueline Novogratz

I am home visiting my parents. I've mentioned before that they grew up during the Korean War and every once in a while one of them will tell me a story from childhood. This time we were sitting at lunch and my dad told me this one:

His family was making a very long journey by foot. It was my dad, his brother and his parents. They had no food and they had no cash. They were far from home and far from friends and family. My dad, a small boy at the time, was so hungry that he couldn't walk any more. He sat down and refused to move. The whole family was so hungry and tired. They were a days walk away from their final destination and wondered whether they would make it. Perhaps this would be it.

A man on a bicycle rode by carrying a bag of rice. As he rode by the bag split open and rice started to leak out on to the road. My grandmother had a needle and thread and offered to sew up the hole. They helped the man scoop up the rice off the ground and put it back in the bag and he was off again.

As they sat there, my uncle noticed that there were still grains of rice on the ground and started to collected them. They collected the rice and he took it to a public fountain and washed it until it was white. My dad says that it was the most delicious meal that he has ever had. My grandmother thought it was the fates lending a help hand where most desperately needed.

I've dated a lot of guys who are poor or broke. There inevitably comes a point, usually during a fight, where they mock me for my soft middle class life of privilege. They tell me that I don't understand poverty. I don't understand the first thing about deprivation. They are right about this. That was not my experience. It was the experience of my dad. My parents and their families has done everything in their power to make sure that it would not be mine. Can you blame them?

It's Blog Action Day today. The theme for this year is Poverty.

I was not going to participate because as my ex's have said, what do I know about poverty? Added to that my energies and attention have not been focused in that direction and I couldn't really think what I would contribute to the day. But Blog Action Day people sent me a very effective reminder email that did more than remind me of the day, it also reminded me of some really amazing ways that people are fighting poverty right now.

Just imagine how the world would be doing if some of that global pool of money went here:



The Grameen Foundation

The Accumen Fund whose founder, Jacqueline Novogratz, gave this TED talk. She says, "Dignity is more important to the human spirit than wealth."

Hell, Charles Schwab Charitable is now getting into the act, using a portion of their Charitable gift accounts to guarantee microfinance loans.

Give someone a goat or a chicken:
Heifer International

If you want to kick it old school:


Habitat for Humanity

If you are concerned with Hunger:
Food Not Bombs

The Burrito Project

Feed Just One

Feed My Starving Children

Share Our Strength

City Harvest

If you want to sit on your butt:
Free Rice has some really interesting talks by really interesting people about interesting subjects. Among the subjects that have been discussed -

Paul Collier has a very interesting take on how to help the "Bottom Billion" on our planet.

Andrew Mwenda's TED talk about the effect of aid in Africa

Majora Carter, environmental justice activist in South Bronx

Hans Rosling has given
two amazing talks on statistics and the state of the world today.

Perhaps at some point in the very near future we will be done fighting poverty and will move on to illiteracy or discrimination or totalitarianism or rudeness or poor personal hygiene.


groucho said...

Personally, I'm tired of being so bourgeois, myself.

I suppose I could allow myself to slip into poverty, in which case I'll get some kind of infusion of "soul". But wouldn't it be better to climb into the ranks of the filthy rich? For, even if the rich are "soulless", at least you have money, and you can always find a poor person willing to sell their soul for (a relatively small amount of) money, which means - as a rich person - you can easily have both.

ergo said...

I wish you luck in your quest for filthy richness. Despite the cautionary tales, it's got to be fun, right?

I would have to disagree with you on the whole matter of having, buy and selling soul. As portrayed in fiction, when people sell their souls it's generally considered a net loss. The only individual who seems to benefit from the sale of a soul is the Devil and I generally get the sense that he/she is not becoming more soulful as the collection gets bigger. Or course I could be wrong, the Devil could be the most soulful M*F* in existence. But I don't generally get that impression.