How poor is poor?

Today is Blog Action Day 2008 and bloggers all over the world have signed on to voice their opinions on the greatest problem facing the globe. At a time when we, in the United States, are faced with economic uncertainty and a looming depression, we are all bemoaning our future. In the midst of my whine an email forward jolted me back to reality.

This photo was taken by free-lance photographer Kevin Clark in 1993, in the Sudan. This frail little girl collapsed as she was walking to the food aid center a kilometer away. The vulture is poised, waiting for her to die, so he can eat her. The photo won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 and I remember my sadness when it was published.  We were moved to tears but soon the image fades in the crush of everyday life.

As a single woman relying on a disability check, the financial outlook is depressing to me. I haven’t yet paid off last winter’s heating bills and winter is here again. Medical costs spiral, gas and fuel prices have eaten our resources, and there is no safety net. My trusty 17 year old car is nearing 200,000 miles and will most likely be the last one I own. I never would have imagined that living in a mobile home in farm country would be my destiny, but after caring for my sick and elderly parents until they died, here I am. The steroids that kept me alive and helped me function for over 20 years since my Lupus diagnosis have eaten away my bones. Getting around requires wheels, on a walker or wheelchair and a lot of determination  but thank God I can still participate in life. Maybe I can’t stretch that monthly check to meet my basic needs, but I’m in good company with millions of others spiraling downward into debt. I’m well below the “poverty line” in America at a time when the whole economy is in the tank. I have the right to be angry! There are days when my depression is overwhelming and the future looks bleak. Still, in the midst of uncertainty, I am so BLESSED! Yes, by many standards I am rich! I have a roof over my head, a bed to lie in and no bombs overhead. I have never, ever, known hunger as much of the world does. I have never had to watch my loved ones die off from starvation and disease before my eyes.

I am blessed with freedom, with loving friends, with opportunities each day to try to make a tiny difference in my little corner of the world! I live in a country where we have poverty but it cannot ever compare to other parts of the world. While we may have missed meals, we have never know the kind of hunger that this tiny girl and millions of others feel. How can hope survive such despair?  The photographer who took this photo killed himself three months after his Pulitzer Prize. His own personal troubles added to the weight of  the suffering and atrocities he had witnessed in his career and he couldn’t handle it. Did he feel helpless in the face of the world’s needs? Was he frustrated by things he could not change? With that one photograph, for which he was widely criticised, he put a face on real poverty. This is real hunger, real despair and we are all better for being made to examine our own reactions to its message.

Right now, in our small rural community, local organizations have started Care 2 Care food collection sites to bolster the local food pantry. Needs are greater and the shelves are bare, so we are coming together as a community. We all have to take care of each other; it is the very essence of life. While we are helping our own, we need to see the much wider global picture. We may not be the cause of the world’s suffering, but we can be a part of the solution. If we can’t help with money, we can at least bear witness to the world’s suffering, to acknowledge the plight of our global family. We must carry their message and never, ever forget.

The children of famine, of genocide, of war belong to all of us. Just because we can’t do it ALL, doesn’t mean we should do nothing! Above all, we need to teach our children to be caretakers and stewards of the earth and all its people. I try, I really try, to be grateful for all my blessings! I never take for granted the fortune of being born in a country where even the poor are rich in comparison to many across the world. I pray that there will come a day when the resources of the world can take care of the world’s children. No matter how humble our circumstances, there is always something that we have to share.

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One Response to “How poor is poor?”

  1. Debbie Says:

    That photo and our walk today puts it all into perspective doesn’t it? We have a lot to be thankful for. – D


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