I got sick this past weekend. Nothing big, just a 24 hour deal where I, yet again, worshiped the porcelain god. I know these all sound like hangovers every time I write about them, but I swear, that's not the case.
As a result of being sick, I was very weary of eating. I picked at some soup, had a grapefruit, and generally just complained about my stomach hurting. Because I'm apparently three, not twenty-three.
Yesterday being Martin Luther King Day, there was no work to be had. I, for one, was grateful for the extra day to recuperate from my stomach being upset with me. I had told a friend and fellow AmeriCorps volunteer that I would attend her Hunger Banquet she organized today. So I convinced OfficeMate to join, and the two of us headed over.
The Hunger Banquet was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Each person draws a card that either reads "Low" "Middle" or "High," and you are given your meal accordingly. The cards are made so that the correct percentage of the room is in each category, according to worldwide poverty levels. Being that the majority of the world is in poverty, it wasn't super surprising when OfficeMate and I both drew "low." We feasted on a spoonful of rice out of a napkin on burlap sacks on the floor with the majority of the others in attendance, while a select four or five were allowed large meals at a table, and a few others were served beans and rice in a bowl with a fork, like fancy folks do.
It really helped put poverty into focus. For me, I have the occasional complaint about my current tight budget, but realistically, I'm hoping to search for a salaried job after this. I'm hoping to be able to pay off student loans in a realistic amount of time, and I'm hoping to learn from this experience of living in poverty for a year, but not stay in it for an undetermined period of time.
It gets me thinking, how can I help? Other than volunteering for one year, how can I help? How can I make equality a lifestyle, not just an idea?
Volunteer. Not just as an AmeriCorps volunteer, but hands-on, direct service. I want to get back into the habit of going every Wednesday to the food pantry. I've had weeks where things legitimately come up, but other weeks I just say I'm too tired. Laziness is no way to combat poverty.
Stay educated. Education is the single largest weapon against poverty. However, those that need education are not just the impoverished. A pet peeve of mine are people who don't follow the news - like current events don't apply or affect them in any way. Just because you don't feel the need to inform yourself, doesn't mean things don't go on happening. Things like Hunger Banquets, the One Campaign, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Heifer International, hell, even AmeriCorps.... while these things all exist to combat poverty, they also offer a wealth of information regarding poverty statistics and the reality of it. To combat poverty, we must educate ourselves before we can even fathom educating others.
Patience. I am an impatient person. When a commercial comes on tv, I have a back up channel to watch instead of sitting through ads. I switch the radio station to avoid listening to commercials. I'd rather take a right turn on red and go an alternate route than wait through a red light. When my five-year old macbook, Maccy, takes his sweet time loading a website, I go do something else like make tea.
But patience is a necessity in overcoming poverty. Poverty is a mindset, a roadblock, a commercial, a red light, a slowly loading webpage with too many images. It won't change with the click of a button or one grant. It won't be solved in my lifetime.
What I hope is that it can be alleviated in my lifetime, and I hope to be the cause of some alleviation. So for now, I"ll do what I can to assist in the process of battling poverty. I'll continue to volunteer, I'll educate myself, and I'll force myself to be patient. Maybe I'll even sit through a red light.
Here are some links to some GREAT nonprofits out there. Feel free to comment with other organizations you know doing fantastic work!
Catholic Campaign for Human Development