Seven Steps to Poverty

From this morning's reading in He Walks Among Us.

'One of the most difficult things to communicate is what it feels like to be poor in the developing world.  How can Americans really understand global poverty without travelling to see it?  Let me try to help you understand, simply by taking seven things away from you, one at a time.  Ready?

First, I take away your clothes.  Don’t panic, I won’t take them all.  You can keep the clothes on your back and wash them each night.  Your children feel the brunt of this humiliation at school.

Next, I take away your electricity.  Now you come home to a dark house each night.  None of your appliances work: no refrigerator, telephone, television, computer or stereo.  Your showers are cold and you have to wash your clothes by hand.  Your quality of life has dropped precipitously.  But you are still better off than most of the world.

Takeaway No. 3 is really tough: clean water.  None of your faucets, toilets, or showers work, and the only water source is a stagnant waterhole about a mile away.  It takes hours each day to fetch what you need, and because it is teeming with bacteria, you and your children are constantly sick.  Despair starts to set in.

 I’m afraid I have to take away even more: your home.  Now you and your whole family must live and sleep in a 20-by-20 mud hut with a dirt floor.  When it rains, the roof leaks and the floor turns muddy. 

Takeway No. 5 is devastating: food.  Your children have long ago lost their smiles; now they are hungry with a gnawing pain.  You find a little food by picking through your neighbor’s garbage.  Already sick from exposure to the elements and from drinking dirty water, your children’s bodies become severely malnourished and cannot fight off diseases.  Your 4-year old girl seems to be slipping away.

 Getting her to the doctor is urgent but, tragically, No. 6 takeaway is health care.  To your horror, your daughter dies before your very eyes – of diarrhea.  How can this be happening?  Why has no one stepped in to help? 

What else could I possibly take away?  No. 7 is Hope.  Without these basic necessities of life, you and your children have no hope for the future.

 Poverty, for most of us, is distant and remote.  But this is the pain that billions on our earth endure each day.”


Author - Richard Stearns