Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lessons from Living With (But Not In) Poverty (Part 1)

I am an aristocrat.

So are you.
I am one of the richest people in the world.  And I don’t mean that figuratively.  I mean that literally.  I do not own a plane, or a boat, or even a house.  But I am one of the richest people in the world.  Filthy, stinkin’ rich. 
I want you to please click here for a moment.  Please.  Then go on and read what else I have to say. 
Did you do it?  Did you enter your family’s income? 
Yeah.  Sobering, isn’t it? 
Oh, I’ve heard the excuses.  “But the cost of living in the United States is so much higher than anywhere else.  We need more money just to get by.”
Oh yes.  True.  But the standard of living is also much higher. 
You are one of the richest people in the world.  I know this because you own a computer, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.  And if you own a car and have a college education, that puts you in the top 7%.
It’s difficult to fathom this when you are surrounded by people who have as much, or more, than you do.  But that doesn’t make it any less true. 
I don’t know about you, but aristocrat doesn’t really bring to mind positive images.  Rather, I think of Marie Antoinette saying, Let them eat cake.  We think of aristocrats as the very rich who revel in their wealth and ignore the poor at their doorstep. 
Are we that far from that description?
I’ve been thinking about this in biblical terms.  Remember the parable of the talents?  Each servant was given a different amount of money, and the amount didn’t matter, just the responsibility. 
Well.  If you go back to that website and see where you fall on the Global Rich List, can you claim anything other than 10 talents?
I am a Ten Talent Servant.  So are you.  We are at the top of the heap.  We are the aristocracy of the world. 
And we will be held responsible as such. 
I have always, every day of my life, had enough to eat.  My closet has always been crammed with clothes.  My housing options have been numerous.  My educational options have been even greater.  The sky is the limit; I can practically do anything and go anywhere if I really wanted to.  I can read any book in English; any kind of information is available to me. 
I have never lived in fear of starvation.  I have never been raped by a soldier who is supposed to protect me.  I have never had to put my children to bed hungry.  I have never been faced with the decision of leaving a child behind to die of starvation alone, or to get the rest of my family to a refugee camp.  I have never lived in fear of a brutal dictator.  I have never had to worry about where or how my children will go to school.  If my children get sick, I can afford the best medical care in the country.  And if that’s not good enough, I have insurance to fly them somewhere else. 
The more I learn about the suffering in the world, the more I am amazed that I have been spared from it.  The more humbled I am.  Every difficulty in my life that I have faced is nothing, nothing, nothing compared to the suffering that billions of people in this world face every day. 
I am so rich. 
I am so cared for.
I have so much opportunity. 
I have Ten Talents. 
I am an aristocrat. 
And that changes my perspective on everything. 
To whom much has been given, much will be required. 

Keep reading:  Part 2


Melodie Monberg said...

While I read it, I didn't want to the entire time I read your post. It's hard to read those words, see those numbers and not do something. It's hard to come face to face with all I have and realize just how much it really is. Powerful. Thank you for posting this Amy!

Jeremy Myers said...

Great post!

Several of us did a "Synchroblog" today on extreme economic inequality, and I happened to find your post in searching for information.

What are the solutions? What practically can we do?

Amy Medina said...

Thanks, Melodie and Jeremy. Jeremy, see parts 2 and 3....and I'm working on more! :-)