Fast forward some 60 years, today I find myself teaching law at a university, running a small foundation and flipping through the pages of a book I just wrote called Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor. I created this book largely with the help of a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist because I never forgot that lady and her child, and in the same way that I never forgot them, I don’t want the world to forget the world’s poor. In short, I believe we spend too much time focusing on the lives of the rich and famous and nowhere near enough time trying to relieve the suffering of one sixth of the world’s people who, in fact, live on less than a dollar a day.
While the reasons for poverty may be different across geographic regions and political circumstances, the results are much the same everywhere: poverty robs people of options in life. While the poor often work very hard at jobs many of us would not even consider doing, they earn close to nothing. Not having access to basic health care and education keeps them at the bottom of the economic ladder, usually for generations.
Living on a Dollar a Day shares the personal stories of some of the poorest of the poor in our global community and encourages compassionate action on the part of those who care to help. The stories and photographs in the book offer a glimpse into the everyday realities of individuals and families facing extreme poverty. These profiles give voice to their experience and their struggles, while honoring their lives and their human dignity. The accompanying text provides accessible information on the root causes of global poverty and offers suggestions on how each of us can get involved to help the world’s poor.
I am neither a billionaire nor millionaire, but simply an individual who is trying to encourage others like me to do a little good in this world. The truth is that most of us have the capacity to help a child, a family, a school, or an orphanage, that but for the help and kindness of others, would not have the tools to escape extreme poverty. (See: http://theforgottenintl.org/documentary.html)
My foundation, The Forgotten International, was built on the premise that we all have the ability to leave this world better than how we found it. I created our “Twelve Simple Beliefs” as a guide to how we approach our work. While we focus on helping impoverished women and children around the world, there are so many other ways of doing good. In fact, one doesn’t have to go around the world to find those in need; the truth is that we can simply go around the block.
I believe it is important to keep thoughts of giving and caring in mind as we move through life if we wish to create a life that is fulfilling and meaningful. These are important lessons to teach our children as well, for often too much time these days is spent playing video games, trying to look a certain way, or simply getting way too enthralled in consumption and / or taking, rather than giving.
I should point out that giving is not a totally selfless act, for in helping others, we often feel better about ourselves and feel a sense of unity with others in our world. Volunteering one’s time to serve those in need can be done with friends and colleagues, and parents can introduce the idea of service to their children, and giving can become a family tradition. It brings added meaning to our lives, and it is a valuable use of our time and energy. It is truly a blessing to be in a position to help.
I do hope you that you will consider the needs of others in your everyday life, whether you are a person of great wealth or someone who occasionally has to give up a nice dinner out for yourself in order to donate a simple meal to others. I also hope you will take the time to learn more about the world’s poor, either through your direct service to others or by picking up a copy of Living on a Dollar a Day.