Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I wrote a rather long post about poverty this morning on my other blog [get there via my profile page]. It's afternoon and as part of the blogosphere's "write about poverty day" I've been thinking about it as I worked. I think I"m a fairly hard-headed person but I had trepidations about traveling to India because I thought seeing all the poverty would be very painful. Perhaps other people have the same feeling. I had at the time been living in NYC quite a while and saw homeless people every day on our streets but the propaganda was so great I expected -- heaven knows what?

Yes, I saw some people living on the street, and was approached by some beggars -- no more so than in many other cities I had visited in many other countries. No more so than in NYC. What struck me in India was that I did not see any fat people. The people on the streets were very slender. Quite a contrast to the crowds we see in America! I suppose there ARE fat people in India, they are probably the ones who travel in private cars to wherever they have to go and are not out in the streets. I think of this because our ideas of poverty are defined by where we live. In India I saw people who go to a river to bathe [and not solely for religious reasons] people defecating in fields behind their homes, people sleeping on string beds on flimsy porches. But being in India was not depressing; something very beautiful happened every day.

In the streets of New York, on the subway, in suburban malls when I happen to be there, I know that many of the most obese are the closest to poverty. The cheap food they eat - partly because it's cheap and partly because they do not know about nutrition or how to cook healthily is the cause -- and as I wrote this morning, we have a poverty of education. Many can barely read and write, but literacy is only the start. Contrast the age old vegetarian notions of India with America's traditional meat and potatoes meals with pie for dessert which have now turned into whoppers and fries and oreos or candy bars.

As I've mentioned to friends, when I'm out and meet someone saying, "can you help me, I'm hungry, anything you can spare, a nickel, a dime, any kind of food," If I have an apple or a granola bar in my purse I give it to beggar. I may get a mumbled thanks but I don't get a hearty "god bless you." They don't want healthy food, they mostly aren't that kind of hungry. They are needy but what they need is often not something I can help with. What can I do to help poverty. Very little. I can vote to change the aministartion but I am not convinced that can make a great difference.

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