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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Soapbox: Cure Poverty?

Oh my gosh! We have finally come to the last of Dr. Patch Adams' ten questions for a better society. I took the questions out of order, but this one is also the last in his list. I can't put off tackling this one any longer. I think it is the hardest, but also one that would indeed transform the world.

10. Can you match the cost of everything you buy with a donation to an environmental sustainability project?

I am a fan of environmental sustainability, and Earth Day is still in the rear view mirror, but personally I would like to edit this question of Adams'. If it were MY question I would change this to: 

Can you match the cost of everything you buy with a donation to end poverty and homelessness? 

So, long story short, I decided to try this last year for Lent.  I began on Ash Wednesday. Wow!  I can't decide if it was the most important thing I have ever done, the stupidest thing, the hardest thing, the best thing, or what....

I discovered that I thought VERY carefully about whether I could afford X, Y, or Z when it meant taking double the amount out of my budget, half for the X, Y, or Z and half to donate. I also decided to exempt mortgage and utility payments, though in a true sense, those would be most appropriate to match to end homelessness.  After a lot of thought I decided that although it would be really tough, I would try to match my grocery shopping money with an equal donation to a local soup kitchen and/or food pantry. 

The conversations I had with my children about this were meaningful, and yes, sometimes a bit loud and a lot frustrated, and yes sometimes inspiring. I confess that we did not make it all the way through Lent. BUT, we did learn a lot about ourselves, our thinking, our choices, and the world.

I don't routinely buy extras, I am not a clothes horse or shoe collector, and I spent so many many years struggling desperately that I don't spend a lot of money.  But I do know that "just" doing it for those weeks has transformed my awareness of what I do spend on "necessities" and how much that amount can do for others, even a year later. Without question, this was been the toughest for me of all Patch's questions, and the one that probably would change the world the fastest. I believe that if somehow this challenge was met by all of us, poverty could indeed be ended, and we would find ourselves richer than we can imagine. 
        Knowing is so so much harder than doing...    

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