Did you see this on some episode of some TV show? A little girl is standing in front of her private school in Beverly Hills, asking her newly divorced mom, “Are We Poor?” They are surrounded by chauffeur-driven cars that contain 9-year olds in designer shoes talking on iPhones. “Is that why I can’t get a Blackberry?”
I remember asking my mom the same question, probably when she wouldn’t buy me something like a new dress for my doll, or the latest jeans. Like the girl who wants the Blackberry, I thought poverty meant not getting what I wanted.
Now I know that poverty is about not getting what you need.
I was reading Things I Learned from Knitting by the Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. The last chapter is, “I am very lucky.” She quotes the World Bank’s estimates that 1.4 billion people in the developing world live on less that $1.25 a day; in a world population of 6.7 billion, that’s one in four that lives in poverty.
As a North American, I am part of the one-percent of the world’s population that has eighty percent of its wealth. We are not poor.
I think The Yarn Harlot says it best:
It turns out that knitting is a luxury, and buying yarn (even cheap yarn) or having time to knit (even five minutes) or simply sitting in my house (even my very small house) with that warm, soft yarn in my hands is a sign that I am extraordinarily rich and fortunate.
Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Things I Learned from Knitting, Storey Publishing, 2008, p. 159.
What can we do? As consumers we can make choices based on ethics rather than our pocketbook. As investors we can choose companies that do not exploit resources. As advocates we can tell our representatives what we believe. As professionals we can volunteer our skills. We can try.
If you’re reading this, and are interested, please also become more informed. Start here.