As an educated woman who has been involved in the social good movement for the last 25 years, I sometimes have the illusion that I know how things work in the world.
But it has become very clear to me that the more I see the less I know. I have traveled the world and have seen some incredible human achievements like aqueducts, the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, and the Roman Colosseum. I have also traveled to rural areas of developing countries and seen first hand what it’s like to live in extreme poverty.
The World Bank defines extreme poverty as people who live on less than $1.90 a day. The Multidimensional Poverty Index measures poverty beyond income and includes health, education, and a general lack of opportunities. That alone is startling to think about. I just spent over $2 on coffee this morning….more than people living in extreme poverty live on for a day.
When I visit these areas it again reveals that the more I see, the less I know. I’m shocked to see that in 2018 so many people don’t have access to clean water, electricity, healthcare, options for education and rarely have enough food to eat. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that on a normal day, I spend more money on food, soda, movies, and books than many people will make in a month. It’s hard for me to think that while I am in a temperature controlled home with so many creature comforts, close to a billion people live in mud huts.
I would have thought that people living in survival mode don’t have time to help others or engage in cultural celebrations. Yet in developing areas that I have visited, I have seen a very strong sense of community and neighbors willingly helping each other. Even when they have so little to give, they give with joy. They are also present in family and community celebrations that often times have roots from decades past. So many people at home don’t even know their neighbor's names, and people living in extreme poverty know their neighbors and will walk for miles to help them when necessary.
It is true that the more I am exposed to the more questions I have. But one thing I know for sure is that just because an act of helping a stranger or being there for a neighbor isn’t seen by a great many, it does not mean that it’s not valuable.
So to those who have gone on an expedition and worked side by side someone living in extreme poverty, helped out a neighbor when you really didn’t have time, or done a nice deed that no one but you and the recipient knows about …….namaste, gracias, asante, thank you!