i am the 1. {part 2}

{Part 1 addressed Occupy Wall Street, corporate interest and the common good.  
Part 2 looks at how the 99 compare to the rest of the world.}

While college education entrenches our family within the middle class, working in camping ministry positions us firmly along the lower rungs of the American economic ladder.

Those degrees are important; we could "climb our way up," although that is hardly a given in this economic climate.  Our relative simple living is a choice, and I don't pretend to know what it's like to be low-wage workers, even if our finances look similar.

One of the biggest distinctions, of course, is that our housing is provided.  Although we have little cash to spare for extras, we never scramble to afford rent or heat.  Our needs are met and many of our wants, too, even when the checking account balance dips and we're counting the hours until direct deposit.

Although our family's earnings are modest according to American standards, globally we are among the richest.  We all are.   
Anyone earning more that $11,456 annually is among the richest 16% in the world.  (Compassion)
One billion people worldwide live in extreme poverty:  less than $1.25 a day. (Bread for the World)
Three billion people--half the earth--live on less than $2.50 a day.  (World Bank)
Eighty percent of the world has less than $10 a day to meet their basic needs.  (World Bank)
925 million people experience hunger on a daily basis.  (World Vision)
In 2007, an estimated 9.2 million children worldwide under the age of five died from largely preventable causes, including malnutrition and lack of access to safe water.  (Unicef)
The American economy is in rough shape, people at home are hurting and voices argue loudly that we should "take care of our own" first.  Why should Americans care about the global poor?

Firstly, of course, we are taking about people:  children and families not faceless statistics.  In a time of such global affluence, it is unconscionable that any should die of hunger.  Extreme poverty is no longer inevitable, and if we are Christians, we know that our salvation will be judged by how we treat "the least of these." 

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Secondly, we aren't as generous as we'd like to think.  Most Americans grossly overestimate the amount we spend on international aid.  Poverty-focused development assistance accounted for just 0.6 percent of the entire U.S. budget in fiscal year 2010  (Bread for the World).

Thirdly, reducing global poverty isn't merely a humanitarian goal:  it will make the world safer and more stable.  "For every 5 percent drop in income growth in a developing country, the likelihood of violent conflict or war within the next year increases by 10 percent"  (Bread for the World.)
The destinies of the "haves" are intrinsically linked to the fates of the "have-nothing-at-alls."  If we didn't know this already, it became all too clear on September 11, 2001.  The perpetrators of 9/11 might have been wealthy Saudis, but it was in the collapsed, poverty-stricken slums of Afghanistan that they found succor and sanctuary.  Africa is not the front line in the war against terror but it soon could be.

"The war against terror is bound up in the war against poverty."  Who said that?  Not me.  Not some beatnik peace group.  Secretary of State Colin Powell.  When a military man starts talking like that perhaps we should listen.  In tense, nervous times isn't it cheaper--and smarter--to make friends out of potential enemies than to defend yourself against them?  (Bono)
If we work toward the Millennium Development Goals and increase international poverty-focused development aid to the 0.7 giving target set by the U.N. and ratified repeatedly by the U.S., extreme poverty could be alleviated within our generation.  (Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty)  That is good news!  Ending extreme poverty is within our reach--if we have the will to see it through.

Our governments have key roles to play, but what about ordinary citizens?  What can one individual or family do make a difference?  Global problems are vast and it is easy to become overwhelmed.

Source: live58.org via Kelley on Pinterest

The truth is that many lives and communities are in better shape today than they were yesterday because progress is being made toward eradicating extreme poverty.  We do have power to enact meaningful, life-giving change:
Engage decision makers and your community to alleviate hunger.
Fund a microloan to encourage economic enterprise and self-sufficiency.
Give gifts this Christmas that make a lasting difference.
Sponsor a child--or 10!  Compassion International, World Vision.
Perhaps one of the biggest ways that we can make a difference is through changing our consumer habits.  I'm no expert, and our family is just beginning to take baby steps, but I'll tackle some of those ideas in in Part 3, a theology of enough.

Compassion Bloggers: Ecuador 2011

Follow the Compassion bloggers to Ecuador this week and see how child sponsorship makes tangible differences in lives for the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven.

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This is second in a series about the intersection of 

faith, justice, consumerism and poverty. 

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