I've been thinking a lot, lately, about money, and the lack of it. Poverty or wealth. It's kind of ironic that we've been having this continuing world-wide downward economic spiral lately. I'm guessing that the topic for Blog Action Day 2008 was chosen long before this newest global economic mess began, but that's just me guessing.
But how does one define poverty? Is is having less than some certain defined amount of money per year/month/week? Only earning minimum wage? Or is it being jobless? Is it being homeless? Hungry?
Or is it having a mountain of debt that you know you can't possibly pay off in your lifetime? Is it not having money for immunizations for your kids or the money for shoes to fit their growing feet?
Or is it having nothing, with no hope for anything ever getting any better?
I've never known poverty. For the first year of our marriage, I was the main breadwinner, bringing home a grand total of $411.00 a month. Our monthly outgo on the house was $121.00. Mr. D also received some money via GI Bill payments, but that went right out the door again to pay for his tuition at engineering school. So we didn't have a lot of money left over. In fact I remember getting hollered at for buying a Glamour magazine ($1.50?), because we didn't have the money to "waste" on such tripe.
Mr. D had a point there, 'cuz glamourous I'll never be, so yeah, that was a total waste of money. I'll admit it, he was right. Once in 30 years, whatever. I'll give him that one.
But we didn't feel poor, even though by most standards we didn't have much. We had a roof over our heads, thanks to Mr. D's obnoxiously disciplined saving habits whilst in the Coast Guard. We had food on the table, thanks to Mr. D's good vegetable gardening skills and his ability to hunt and fish. (I can skin a deer... me and Sarah Palin have something in common. Although that's it.) We had a teeny old Honda Civic, with no radio, purchased by Mr D with his saved money.
And we had that damned Glamour magazine. (Looks like I wasn't bringin' much to the party, doesn't it?)
So we weren't poor, really.
But the thing was, we felt any fiscal belt-tightening was only temporary. We knew that when Mr. D finished his stint at university, we could go anywhere in the world and either of us could find good well-paying jobs, with good salaries and health insurance and 401k plans and all the rest of that jazz. We had no doubts. We just knew.
But millions of people don't have anything like that assurance.
And I don't know what to say or do for them.
I read an interesting essay at African Expat Wives Club the other day, and it highlights some of the problems working with individuals while trying to do your bit to end poverty. We tried ourselves whilst in Africa, to make a difference to African poverty. To be honest, I don't know whether we made things better or worse... It was our own particular brand of hubris to think we knew better than big international aid organisations.