Luck and responsibility

News broke yesterday that 46.2 million people in the US are living below the poverty line.  Now, the poverty line in America, is slightly different from places like say, Rwanda.  In the US, the poverty line is $22,314 for a family of four.  This is roughly $15/person/day.  By contrast, the international poverty line (as defined by the World Bank in 2005) is $1.25/person/day.  In this case, math doesn’t make this an argument worth having.  Something is desperately wrong in our country and getting worse.

My mom told me the story today of a woman she’d been seeing as she went to work at the train station in Chicago.  The woman, nicely dressed, held a sign saying she was looking for work as an administrative assistant.  She had resumes with her.  Commuters often stopped to talk to her and give advice.  Everyday she was there; pulled together, but seemingly at the end of her rope.  Until one day she wasn’t there.  We wondered together what happened to her.

It occurs to me, most days, but particularly today, how lucky I am.

In the years since we’ve been working in some of the most challenging places in the world, in terms of lack, I’ve been stunned by the simple fact that people don’t give up.  The human spirit endures, no matter what barriers exist in terms of access to healthcare, availability of education, or opportunities for economic development.  In the face of these experiences, I count myself lucky and have come to believe that with the luck of a privileged life comes responsibility to those who were born in less fortunate circumstances.

It took me a long time to come to this conclusion.  It was scary.  I had to admit that I was lucky and accept that I was responsible and that meant I needed to take action.  Now, if I’m not taking action, I feel indulgent, guilty and lazy. But that’s me, and admittedly I am a little over the top.  So, if any of this resonates with you I encourage you to do something.  Start small. Just start.  If that means dedicating your life, your free time, or the next interaction with someone in need, do it.  It turns out it feels good to take responsibility, just as good as it does to realize how lucky you are.

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