Between our $4 carmel macchiatos, $100-a-month cell phone plans, and McMansions behind our bourgeois white-picket fences and pristine, kelly green lawns, we occasionally stop our days and look at the 24-hour news cycle that serves as the soundtrack to our lives to see a story about floods in Pakistan, earthquakes in Haiti, wildfires in Russia, and say, “Oh, that’s Awful!” or, “How Sad!” and then continue on with our day. Sometimes, we even open our wallet and drop a dollar in the jar, or send a text to donate, or buy a product for which “a quarter of the proceeds goes to ____________ victims”. But we see hunger, disease, cruelty, and are unfazed by it. We complain about loosing “one of our homes in Nantucket”, when there are people living in cardboard boxes on the streets a few miles away, without a single home to stay in. Because they aren’t us.
I know the excuses. That’s not you I described, you were comfy before the recession, but your investments went under, you lost your job, and you’re nearing foreclosure. Even if you resort on a soup kitchen to feed you, you still have food to eat, clean drinking water, and a place to sleep, which is something that can’t be said for the millions of victims of disaster, poverty, and tyranny in the world. almost a third of the world’s population is chronically hungry. You and I were lucky enough to be born in a part of the world where mothers can feed their children, where children get a free education, where most of the population can read. You’re lucky, even if you’re in hot water, your spouse is leaving you, you got laid off, et cetera, you’re alive, and you can count on that better than people in Haiti, Pakistan, Russia, Darfur, Burma, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, North Korea, Kazakhstan, Georgia (the former USSR state), Venezuela, Jamaica, Mexico, Indonesia, and the list goes on. We may have troubles in our lives but the troubles of others living elsewhere make our troubles seem tiny and insignificant.
“I worked hard for my money, and its mine, so why should I give it to someone else!” you may spew, with a spirited stomp or table slap (and perhaps a few expletives I’ve chosen to leave out). But Which do you think is harder? Long hours at an office, in a law firm, treating patients, or even in the factory, or the constant hunger in the stomachs of people in Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East as they work in sweat shops, attempt to farm infertile land, or even work as prostitutes, all for insignificant pay, with no laws for workers’ protection, just trying to comfort the hunger, to no avail. The majority of people in third world countries work harder every day than the most hardworking Americans may work in their entire lives. So why do you get a fair pay and they don’t?
I’m not spewing communism, or saying that you should go out and give all your worldly possessions to the poor, but I do think that it’s a moral imperative to do something. Of all the things there are to do, three come to mind:
- Give what you can. It may not be much, as you are allowed to indulge yourself in some comforts, but, next time you’re at Starbucks, simply turn around, go back out the door, and donate the money you would have spent on an over-priced latte to the World Food Programme.
- Do your best to imagine life in abject poverty. You hear stories about it on the news, see the graphic photos, and only pause for a moment in pity before continuing on your way. I want you to actually close your eyes and put yourself in the body of a child with worms in his stomach or a sudanese girl being raped. Feel the stabbing pain and choke of fear they feel. If that doesn’t make you care about them, nothing will.
- Spread the word. Your latte money may only feed one child, but if you can get your friends to tell their friends and so on, schools could be built, wells could be drilled, and you could actually improve the quality of life for a whole village.
I’ll admit that I too have fallen victim to the allure of $4 lattes and expensive smartphone plans. But I vow to pull myself free from things like that along with you. I’m a student, the very definition of broke, but, I had a tradition, where, every time I reached a big milestone of hits on my blog (200, 500, 1000, etc.) I would celebrate by buying myself an expensive chai latte with soy milk from Starbucks, but, now, I will donate the price of that tea ($5 something for a large) to the World Food Programme, or if there’s a major crisis occurring, to a disaster-specific organization. So now, every time you visit, (or click on an in-site link or refresh your browser) you’re helping stop world hunger.
I’m not asking for much, in the way of you changing your life. All I ask is that you not remain unfazed by tragedy, and just do something small for people in need. Take off the blinders. You’re not a horse, you’re a human.