By Dale McArdle
My daughter, Flannery, is spending a year in Africa, first in Rwanda and now in Uganda working for Plan International. Reading her blog is inspiring. I was very taken by these words she wrote about poverty, concluding that as much as any other reason; it is an accident of birth:
“Purely because of the accident of birth, the children of Kamuli are shortchanged frm the minute they enter the world – they have to worry about where they get water, what diseases that water carries, where/when they will get their next meal, being taken advantage of or attacked on the hour and half or two hour walk to and from school.”
“What makes them any less worthy than you or I simply because we won the lottery and were born in a place where these worries are things of the past and water, food, shelter, and some standard of education is essentially the norm, right from the womb? How can we passively live in a world where simply by being born in a particular place or to a particular family we are guaranteed the dignity that others are denied for the very same reason?”
Yes, how can we passively live in a world where circumstances of birth, or the “ovarian lottery” as Warren Buffet has described it, determine whether we have a comfortable and successful life or a life of poverty and dependence? Sadly, the answer is that all too many people act as if poverty doesn’t exist and they ignore it.
In a recent New York Times opinion column, Nicholas Kristof wrote that studies based on Magnetic Resonance Imaging have revealed that the brains of subjects shown images of the poor and homeless react not as if these images were human, but as if they were things. Rather than feel empathy, they felt revulsion. So, how does this give me hope?
I have hope because there are young people in this world, like my daughter Flannery, willing to forego her privileged life for a year to live in a third world country, 7,000 miles away from everything she knows and loves, to make a difference in the lives of an impoverished people.
While living among some of the poorest people in the world, she has developed an understanding of the profound effect that poverty can have on individuals, families and even nations. Her compassion drives her to seek solutions for the underlying causes of poverty, for this reason she and other committed, like minded young people, give me hope for the future.
I have hope because there are thousands of Catholic Charities employees, volunteers and donors that do not see the poor and the homeless as things, they do not find those in need repulsive.
I believe in the culture of giving at Catholic Charities that compels us to advocate, as well as to intercede directly on behalf of the poor to alleviate human suffering. We change lives every day, one life at a time, all year long.