This year the good people at Blog Action Day have asked participating bloggers to comment on the global experience of poverty.
Because I try to be a diligent world citizen and because it seems like a manageable way to contribute to planetary consciousness, I thought sure, I'll write about poverty. But really, what do I know about poverty?
Oh, sure, I've been poor by American standards. Growing up we didn't have squat--ate government peanut butter out of heavy steel cans and drank powdered milk that crusted in the corners of the milk bottle. My sister and I wore hand-me-downs from the neighbors and participated in no costly activities, which ruled out everything but the Girl Scouts. We had one rusty car and we wore sweaters inside in the winter. Later, as a so-called adult, I continued to experience this level of tight finances, living with five roommates to make the rent and eating Ben's Boil-a-Bag rice for too many dinners (though I did have cigarettes).
But do we see a theme here? Even during prolonged periods of so-called destitution, I have never once missed a meal. (Some may say I could stand to miss a meal or two.) Unless I chose otherwise, I've always had a roof to curl up beneath--and clean clothes, health care, drinking water, a dentist and even, except for six months of my adult life, a car. So this is not poverty.
But there is poverty, even in America. In the nearby city of Yakima, Scott and I were once lost and drove through a bad neighborhood, where we saw--I kid you not--a fully occupied home that did not have walls. A roof, yes; no walls. That is poverty. When you get so frigging poor that spending the winter under a roof but still needing to shovel snow out of the living room seems reasonable, well, that's poor. And probably most of us that have done even a scant amount of traveling have seen some episode of our own.
I guess I'm supposed to now comment on what we're supposed to do about poverty. Because I write a blog I am obviously replete with handy suggestions on this matter. Not.
In fact, I have only one suggestion. Sometimes I even follow it myself. I think we should share. Not government to government as much as person to person. I think we should contribute to our local food banks, invite a friend to supper, give stuff away that we don't need, tithe, and give the guy at the red light in the really awful looking coat with the cardboard sign--give that guy a couple of bucks. That's what I think. It sure can't hurt anyone.
Final thought: in a documentary I saw the other night, a philosopher pointed out that in poor countries, people just do for one another. But in rich countries, we don't know what to do. But there is always something we can do, once we're looking. There's always someone with whom we can share.
Don't you think?