I believe that poverty affects everyone. Living in an upper-middle-class society, it becomes easy to forget about those who are forced to dig in trash cans to find sustenance for themselves and their families. When most people think of poverty, thoughts of African children starving thousands of miles away come to mind. Often they forget how many impoverished people live within only miles of their own homes. Poverty affects everyone no matter what race, social class, or religion, and I believe that we should not sit by in luxury as fellow human beings suffer all around us.
I must admit that I have found myself forgetting about those very people I speak of many times before in my life, but earlier this year I received a wake-up call in the form of a movie. Contemporary World Affairs is a class at my school that gets students educated about and involved with the current issues that face this world. During that class, I watched the movie “The Last King of Scotland.” Now, I know that movies over-dramatize situations, but this documentary clenched a sense of growing disgust that I had for the current state of poverty in the world. Seeing the reality of poverty in this movie, I feel an obligation to try to do something to lessen it in some way. That same class also raises money for a charity every year. This year, money was raised for an organization called Invisible Children that sends people and money to Northern Uganda in order to attempt to stop the wars and child abductions currently taking place there. Even though I did not take charge of the fundraising, it felt good to see how the money the class raised makes a difference. I believe that every amount of money raised to stop poverty can make a difference for those suffering in Africa.
But the people suffering from poverty are not only those in Africa or other developing nations; we have all come in contact with poverty in everyday situations even if we did not realize it. Thousands of Americans live impoverished lives and are forced to live in as harsh of situations as those in African countries, if not worse. The cold winters that many of the states experience each year take the lives of many citizens who have fallen into bad circumstances and been forced to live on the streets. Those living in cities do not have the ability to hunt for their food as much of the wildlife has been driven to the rural areas, so finding food requires them to scour trash cans or beg others. How many times have we passed up someone with a sign saying “down on luck” and pretended not to see them because we do not want to have to give them any money or have them interrupt our busy days? I know that many of us are skeptical as to whether they are really impoverished or if they are simply trying to scam us out of our money. A simple solution to this issue is for us to offer to buy someone lunch. We almost all have enough money and time to spare to take someone to a fast-food place for a hamburger, and if the person is not genuinely poor, they will most likely turn down the offer. I believe that, as American citizens, we should not let poverty continue to go unnoticed in our society.
The civilized western world views poverty as far off and treats dealing with poverty similar as they view dealing with animal rights. Almost every religion would agree that human beings belong above the level of animals, but why do the leaders choose not to deal with the issue? The Millennium Plan outlined an idea by the leaders of the most advanced countries with intentions to cut poverty in half by 2015, but now, in 2009, they are still far off from their goals. At a meeting of the world leaders in 2005 meant to check on the current states of those plans, the world leaders recognized that not much had been done, but not any of them were willing to give on their other issues in order to free up more money for the Millennium goals. The world leaders are not the only one’s at fault. American citizens spent almost as much on Christmas in 2007 as has been spent total on poverty relief in Africa in the last 40 years. While I understand that they cannot give all of their money away to help other nations, I believe that more could and should be done to help eliminate poverty both worldwide and in our own country.
The priorities of American’s and most of the Western world have gotten skewed. “It is a tragic mix-up when the United States spends $500,000 for every enemy soldier killed, and only $53 annually on the victims of poverty” (Martin Luther King, Jr.). Poverty is not an issue that can be solved overnight, but as a society that lives in excess as ours does, we can do something to help those in need.