I just wanted to thank MotherJones.com for pubishing this interview and photo series with Renee C. Byer's incredible images from "Living on a Dollar a Day." If you have not seen it, here's the link:
I am presently in India visiting the people and the programs The Forgotten International tries to help. As I travel through this country and see the vast disparities of wealth, I am reminded of a radio story out of Mumbai I heard on National Public Radio some time ago:
“Adjacent to a huge home that was being built for one of India's new rich, in the city of Mumbai lived a cobbler on the street. On both sides of his “shop” he stacked a wall of bricks and it was between these bricks where he sat all day hoping someone would want his shoes shined or fixed. He has been there for years and on a good day he might make a dollar. The reporter asked him what he does on a bad day, he said he just turns over, sleeps on the street and prays for a better day the next day. When the reporter asked what if there is no better day the next day, what do you eat? He said, that when he earns no money, he eats the leaves off the tree across the street. Finally, the reporter asked had he ever dreamt about living in a real home, maybe even like the huge home that was being built right next to his make-shift shoe repair shop. The old man simply said, not in this lifetime, but maybe the next.”
So goes the life of all those around the world who have so little yet seldom ask for help and just do the best they can living on about a dollar a day.
I often tell this story when I talk about the work of The Forgotten International as it has served to be an inspiration to me over the years. I recently told it again at a private signing event for my book, Living on a Dollar a Day, and because one of the guests had arrived late and missed my presentation, the host asked me to retell it just to him. He thought it was important for all the guests to go home with this message:
About a dozen years ago, I was allowed to sit in the corner of a room in the home of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, a room where day after day he opens his home to receive guests from all over the world. On this particular day, I observed His Holiness welcome a wealthy Indian gentleman and his family from Bombay. After forty five minutes had passed and all had talked and laughed about, both the little and big questions of life, the patriarch of this well-dressed family asked the Dalai Lama if he would be so kind as to bless him and his family before they went on their way. To my surprise, His Holiness put off the request. He said, "Who am I to bless you? I am the same as you, no better, no worse. And you are the same as I, a human being with many of the same wants and needs, just two simple friends who seek happiness and some answers to the mysteries of life. If, however, you wish to feel blessed, please return to Bombay and when you arrive, work with all those around you who have so little and suffer so much. In doing so, you will feel blessed in return."