Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

What Poverty Does to US (Blog Action Day 2008)

Today, Blog Action Day 2008, we are to write about poverty.

There are many levels of poverty, and I have seen the worst. I have seen people without the very most basic necessities of life, without enough food, without a safe place to spend the night, people who would sell their baby for another fix, people who live in filth. The very worst thing about poverty is what it does to those who see it, but are not poor – it hardens our hearts.

The overwhelming nature of poverty, the knowledge that we can only do so much, that our efforts are like little drops in a great sea, it can make you turn away from doing anything at all. Afraid to feel to much, we build a wall around our hearts, so we won’t have to feel. We judge, we walk away.

So who is poor? Does not God look at our hearts? He teaches us that the poorest of the poor, who shares one crust of bread with another, is more merciful than the donor who gives generously out of abundance. If we harden our hearts, if we turn away from these problems, who then is poor? Do we not have a deep inner problem, a severe inner poverty, a poverty of spirit?

One of the great God-jokes I see as I live my life is how what we see and what we learn is often the opposite of what God teaches us. He tells us not to put our faith on earthly treasures, our cars, our houses, our material possessions. He tells us the greatest wealth of all is in giving it all away and serving him.

As the financial markets dip and twirl on the roller coaster of doubts and fears and perceptions, as people watch their life savings dwindle, will we learn our lesson? (Can you hear God laughing?)

One of the great secrets of wealth is giving it away – ask Warren Buffet, the richest man in the world, or Bill Gates. They have made fortunes, walked away and given abundantly of their wealth to make the world a better place. God smiles on them. They learned the secret.

When you help the poor, you are blessed.

There is a story we tell volunteers about a little boy along the seashore. Thousands of starfish are stranded on the shore as the tide recedes and a man watches as the little boy picks up starfish and throws them out into the ocean, one at a time. After watching a while, he shouts at the boy “Give it up! There are so many starfish! You can’t save them all!” and the little boy, without pausing, shouts back “But I can save THIS one!”

I worked for a year with homeless families. As I worked with them, I found myself learning from their stories, and from their determination to make a better life for their children. Working with the homeless is like throwing starfish back into the sea. Some might make it and others won’t. There are dark days, days when you feel overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of those who need your help. By focusing on what you CAN do, you hope to make a difference, even in the life of just THIS family, or that child.

We need to ask ourselves, those of us who live in abundance, how can we receive this blessing, the blessing of working with and/or giving to the poor? Is there a food closet that needs your donations and your weekly volunteer effort? Is there a mosque or church that uses volunteers to serve a daily meal to the poorest of the poor? Is there a sandwich delivery to the street poor? Is the Salvation Army active in your area? Are there decent clothes in your closet which you have outgrown? Are there pillows or blankets you could donate to Operation Hope Kuwait? How can you serve the poor? How can you receive this blessing?

Donations of your time, your energy, your vision will not only be a small contribution towards improving the world one small act at a time, it will also lessen the soul-deadening impact of poverty, it will be a blessing to YOU. Working together, people can make a difference. You can make a difference in the life of the poor. You can make a difference, by serving, in your own life.

October 15, 2008 - Posted by | Charity, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual |


  1. Great post! I’m visitng for Blog Action Day. I love the starfish story….and each one of us CAN make a difference. We must encourage even the smallest of efforts.

    Comment by embejo | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  2. Great post, love it, so true!

    Comment by Maryam | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  3. Thank you, embejo, and welcome, I am happy for your visit.

    Maryam, are you a Maryam I know outside the virtual world? 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  4. Great post and a very scary picture.

    I registered my blog for Blog Action Day because of your post some time back. Although my contribution is nothing as well written as yours, it has given me the chance to sit back and think.

    I’m looking forward to reading different people’s posts about the subject. I had to start my reading hours with yours. Thank you intlxpatr.

    Comment by Bu Yousef | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  5. The first photo illustrates my point, that poverty hurts US. Here is the write-up:

    “The prize-winning image: A vulture watches a starving child in southern Sudan, March 1, 1993.

    Carter’s winning photo shows a heart-breaking scene of a starving child collapsed on the ground, struggling to get to a food center during a famine in the Sudan in 1993. In the background, a vulture stalks the emaciated child.

    Carter was part of a group of four fearless photojournalists known as the “Bang Bang Club” who traveled throughout South Africa capturing the atrocities committed during apartheid.

    Haunted by the horrific images from Sudan, Carter committed suicide in 1994 soon after receiving the award.”

    Comment by intlxpatr | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  6. I read somewhere that Carter left the scene after photographing the picture , he did not help the child , which is the most terrible a human can do to other .

    Comment by Grey | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  7. That picture is just heart-ripping! A depressing matter intlxpatr…

    Comment by Disturbed Stranger | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  8. I only know what I printed, Grey. I can’t imagine walking away without helping that child – unless your arms are already so full you can’t carry another one.

    Disturbed Stranger – It distrubs me, too. It haunts me. It’s why I used it in this post. We should be heart-ripped.

    Comment by intlxpatr | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  9. Thank you for reminding us of the incredible wealth that we have, relative to so much of the world. In the past weeks of stock market craziness, when many have been bemoaning loss of investments, retirement funds, etc., there has been quite the “woe is me” attitude. We really don’t know woe, do we? We who CAN share, must, and I thank you for your strong reminder of that.

    Comment by grammy | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  10. In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

    Hast thou observed him who belieth religion? (1) That is he who repelleth the orphan, (2) And urgeth not the feeding of the needy. (3) Ah, woe unto worshippers (4) Who are heedless of their prayer; (5) Who would be seen (at worship) (6) Yet refuse small kindnesses! (7)

    Quran, Al-Maun (107): 1-7

    Comment by Nana | October 10, 2010 | Reply

  11. THAT’S a poor little boy, starving death in Africa not your fucking poverty
    I feel sad for the little poor kid

    Comment by eazy | July 13, 2022 | Reply

    • It is about what poverty does to US, not USA, but all of us. The title was the world-wide theme of blog action day in 2008 – What poverty does to us. When we corporately, or individually, do nothing, we are also impoverished.

      Comment by intlxpatr | July 14, 2022 | Reply

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