Today is Blog Action Day and the topic is poverty. Similar to last year’s post, I’m going to reflect and celebrate on what I’m already doing to help, investigate areas that could be improved, and then commit to action.
I have to admit that I’m even less passionate about “poverty” than I am about the environment. However, I can’t ignore the very real fact that if I’m to practice what my faith preaches, I’d better care about the poor and I’d better do something about it. So, I’m thankful that Blog Action Day is here and that I can use it as a chance to commit to some real action.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why I don’t take action more often, and things I can think about to counter my excuses:
- Feeling overwhelmed: Knowing that about half the world’s children are living in poverty is a staggering statistic. When you look at the masses of people – about half of the world’s population – who subsist on less than $2.50 a day, it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing you can do about it. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s helpful to remember the starfish story and commit to making a difference one life at a time. If each person who made over $2.50 a day helped out one person who was living on less than $2.50 a day, everyone would be covered. 🙂 Of course, it’s not going to be that simple, but it does make me feel a little better to know that by finding a way to do my part, I’m helping to balance out the equation a little more.
- Self-centered perspective: In these “tough economic times,” at least for those of us in the US, it’s easy for me to focus on getting me and my family through and to think that I don’t have any extra to spare. In college, when I was on a REALLY tight budget, I remember feeling a bit disgruntled by “call to action” people who would urge us to “give up that daily mocha” and donate the money to a charity. I wasn’t sure how other people were affording a daily mocha, because all of my money was going to textbooks, rent, and basic food! These days, I’m living a much more luxurious life with organic food, a “fun” budget line item, and owning a home. While I still don’t buy a daily mocha, there’s certainly more flex in our budget – on most months, at least – so that we could sacrifice in some areas temporarily and have a little more to give.
This list is much shorter than last year’s, but it’s still something that I can celebrate!
- We sponsor a child through Compassion (which costs less than $2.50/day, actually, as our bank account gets debited $32/month automatically). It’s been neat to see our little girl from India grow up to be a young lady, exploring interests in school and beginning to dream dreams, via quarterly handwritten-and-translated letters.
- At least once a year around Christmastime, we’ll peruse the World Vision Gift Catalog and purchase a share of a cow, or four chickens, or a few goats, which are given to needy families or villages. It’s a little bit weird to look through a catalog, which is a naturally consumeristic activity, and make decisions that affect real people’s lives. Should we feed a starving village or rescue a child from a life of prostitution? Kind of jarring, but at least, in the end, we’re doing something.
- Steve and I participated in 30 Days of Nothing the first time around and donated the money we saved. We missed it this year, but I think it’s something I want to do every year, if Steve is up for it.
- We buy fair trade bananas. 🙂
Time to brainstorm next actions! This list is by no means comprehensive nor is it very radical, but I tried to come up with realistic and achievable actions that I could take. Rather than trying to come up with a big life-changing plan, I’ve found that real change happens when I start small and think of things that I could imagine myself doing.
- Write a letter to my Compassion child. The web site allows for an easy interface to email the child, but I think it’s time to write a hand-written letter and include a recent family photo, now that we have a baby.
- “Do” 30 Days of Nothing in a month other than September – talk to Steve about trying it out for November, for example.
- A few years ago, I bought Material World, a really cool book where families around the world are photographed with all of their possessions lined up around their house. The disparity between the family in Mali and the family in the US is staggering, and each page is a visual reminder of how much we own – and how much we don’t need. While I don’t want to dull the impact by looking at the book every single day, I think that flipping through the pages at least once a year would be a good activity for me – maybe to kick off 30 Days of Nothing.
- I’ve always been intrigued by Kiva‘s concept of microloans and their excellent implementation of making it easy to loan a small amount of money to someone else halfway across the world, watch it get repaid, and then loan the money back out to someone else. Their site currently says that all loan requests have been filled (although you can donate to their operating expenses), but it’s a site to keep an eye on for future giving opportunities.
- We can reexamine our charitable giving and our values. Is helping the poor high enough on our value system that we want to reflect that in our charitable giving?
- Add more fair trade items to our grocery list where we can – fair trade chocolate, for example (we aren’t at-home coffee drinkers, or fair trade coffee would be an option, too).
- I also like the idea of starting at home. Grace In Action is an organization affiliated with several of the churches in town that helps the homeless in our community. I can start by looking at their donated items list and picking something up each time we go to Costco, which we do infrequently yet regularly enough for it to work as a “regular” donation without being a “ongoing” budget line item.
- Have a garage sale, or, more realistically for us, sell items on Craigslist and donate the money.
Commit to action
I could really see myself doing all of the above! But again, I’ll commit to just a few actions and will follow up in a later post. Let me clarify – I will commit to talking to Steve about these actions, since we have joint finances and his opinion and approval is needed before moving forward!
- One-time: Do 30 Days of Nothing in November or another month next year.
- One-time: Write a letter to our Compassion child – this is something I can do on my own!
- Ongoing: Get fair trade chocolate for baking/cooking purposes.
- Ongoing: Commit to one year of getting something “extra” each time we go to Costco to donate to Grace In Action.
How about you? Do you have a post for Blog Action Day, or are there specific actions you want to commit to taking to help combat poverty?