It generally is very difficult for Americans… to comprehend the realities of daily life for the billion-plus people who constitute “the poorest of the poor.” For these people, the question “What Is Enough?” has a very different meaning.
This little exercise – adapted from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s magazine Freedom from Hunger, and based on excerpts from The Great Ascent by Robert L. Heilbroner (New York Harper & Row, 1963) – may help to get you in touch with the reality of life in the shadows cast by our relative wealth.
* First, take out the furniture: leave a few old blankets, a kitchen table, maybe a wooden chair. You’ve never had a bed, remember?
* Second, throw out your clothes. Each person in the family may keep the oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. The head of the family has the only pair of shoes.
* Third, all kitchen appliances have vanished. Keep a box of matches, a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a handful of onions, a dish of dried beans. Rescue those moldy potatoes from the garbage can: those are tonight’s meal.
* Fourth, dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, take out the wiring and the lights and everything that runs by electricity.
* Fifth, take away me house and move the family into the tool shed.
* Sixth, by now all the other houses in the neighborhood have disappeared; instead there are shanties – for the fortunate ones.
* Seventh, cancel all the newspapers and magazines. Throw out the books. You won’t miss them – you are now illiterate. One radio is now left for the whole shantytown.
* Eighth, no more postman, fireman, government services. The two-classroom school is 3 miles away, but only 2 of your 7 children attend anyway, and they walk.
* Ninth, no hospital, no doctor. The nearest clinic is now 10 miles away with a midwife in charge. You get there by bus or bicycle, if you’re lucky enough to have one.
* Tenth, throw out your bank books, stock certificates, pension plans, insurance policies. You now have a cash hoard of $5.
* Eleventh, get out and start cultivating your three acres. Try hard to raise $300 in cash crops because your landlord wants one-third and your moneylender 10 percent.
* Twelfth, find some way for your children to bring in a little extra money so you have something to eat most days. But it won’t be enough to keep bodies healthy – so lop off 25 to 30 years of life. http://www.context.org/iclib/ic26/3rdwrld/
Generally I consider myself a grateful and positive person. However, regularly something like the article above crosses my path and serves as a wake up call to how very fortunate I am. The more grateful I become the more I find to be thankful for. In this holiday season of plenty I am humbled by the ‘wealth’ life has afforded me.
We can only be said to be alive
in those moments when our hearts
are conscious of our treasures.