Monday, October 05, 2009

How Much Do We Care

Photo Credit: Food crisis in the Horn of Africa by IFRC

I read an article recently that claimed an expenditure of $60 billion dollars on basic health care and education would be enough to effect an enormous change in child mortality rates and eliminate extreme poverty and hunger.

If that is true, it would amount to about .1% of the World Gross National Product. If the estimate is 10 times too small, it would really take 1%. It would seem that the cost of eliminating the worst of the world's poverty is not an economic issue. If we could all give up 1% of our luxuries, or if we could all be 1 % more productive in our work, there should be plenty for everyone.

I don't think most of us can even measure our personal wealth accurately to plus or minus 1%. And certainly not to plus or minus .1%. Fluctuations in real estate prices, stock prices, or even the value of goods are enough to hide a per cent. The recent hiccup in the U.S. economy wiped out about $8 trillion dollars of personal wealth (or at least, of our wealth "on paper").

Out of all the things I care about, do I care about starving people and sick children with at least 1% of my capacity for caring? I'd like to think so. In fact, I'd like to think that most folks can easily muster 1% of their caring towards such issues.

Things look easier on the macro scale. It has been said that the devil is in the details, and that certainly seems appropriate here. I can think of an example close to home that indicates that more than money is required. A lot more. I volunteer at an outlet for free kids clothes. We have a selection of free adult clothes nearby. We are across the hall from the Food Bank and Gleaners. They provide lots of free food. Those are good things, but I have no illusion that free food and clothes means that all kids in our town will be warm and well fed. There are lots of other problems besides the material resources: substance abuse, depression, dysfunctional families, and the list goes on and on.

Sin is the big obstacle. It seems that worldwide, men in particular are snared by alcohol, gambling, and prostitution, just to name a few. Fighting wastes lots of energy at both the personal and the national level. Substantial changes in those sorts of behavior could have a huge impact.

Of course, we try to engineer changes in behavior with laws, taxes, and social and cultural strictures. It is rather disheartening to see just how ineffective things like laws against drug use have been. Ditto for taxes on cigarettes and disgrace for public figures discovered to be involved with prostitution.

I will continue to give some of my resources toward eradicating some of the worlds nastiest problems. I will vote for laws and support positions that may have some effect in changing behavior. However, I think these are the least of my contribution.

I am convinced that by far the biggest impact I can have is by seeking to be more like Christ. And let it be clear that I don't believe I have the will or the strength to change myself much. More and more I see how dependent I am on God for those changes. This is spiritual warfare at ground level. It is personal and immediate. I don't have to wait for anyone else to do anything.

I simply have to seek God and obey him.

If I don't do what I can, why would I expect others to do something?
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