After a long day of coaching yesterday, I went out with my fellow coaches for supper at a place I’ve been to a couple of times. I’ve always noticed this indian man, probably in his late sixties, running this little provision store besides the cafe.
What I saw for the first time last night was that after he closes his little shop (around 1am I think) he rolls up to sleep, on the table outside of his stall.
When I saw that, for all the things lacking in my life right now, I still felt like the luckiest man on earth.
What I’m going to talk about in this article relates to that. It’s about poverty, about contribution and how you can make a difference. It’s going to be uncomfortable for some of you. It won’t be an article that you can easily read and walk away from, because by the end of this article, you’ll have expanded your conscious awareness of the world around you, and what you choose to do about it will either help you further expand that awareness or close it tight behind you.
In either case, at the end of this article, you’ll have to make a choice, just like I did, and it’s a choice you’ll have to live with.
Still game to accelerate your personal development? No one ever said it was going to be easy. If so, read on.
When I read this articlel; Singer’s Solution to World Poverty it changed my life. It increased my awareness so much that I couldn’t go back to my old way of thinking anymore. It’s a long article, and the gist of it that does it for me is in this thought experiment:
Bob is close to retirement. He has invested most of his savings in a very rare and valuable old car, a Bugatti, which he has not been able to insure. The Bugatti is his pride and joy. In addition to the pleasure he gets from driving and caring for his car, Bob knows that its rising market value means that he will always be able to sell it and live comfortably after retirement. One day when Bob is out for a drive, he parks the Bugatti near the end of a railway siding and goes for a walk up the track. As he does so, he sees that a runaway train, with no one aboard, is running down the railway track. Looking farther down the track, he sees the small figure of a child very likely to be killed by the runaway train. He can’t stop the train and the child is too far away to warn of the danger, but he can throw a switch that will divert the train down the siding where his Bugatti is parked. Then nobody will be killed — but the train will destroy his Bugatti. Thinking of his joy in owning the car and the financial security it represents, Bob decides not to throw the switch. The child is killed. For many years to come, Bob enjoys owning his Bugatti and the financial security it represents.
Bob’s conduct, most of us will immediately respond, was gravely wrong. Unger agrees. But then he reminds us that we, too, have opportunities to save the lives of children.
Like donating online, of which there are so many options. At the end of the article I’m going to give you some links to find charities that you can donate to, and you’ll have the information and ability to help better someone’s life…but what are you going to do about it?
What’s the difference between Bob consciously choosing his car over the child, and us choosing to spend our extra money on that new frivolous something over donating to a worthy cause that helps save lives? Nothing really, except one choice is more morally obvious than the other. It’s just a dollar to me, but to someone else in a worse off part of the world that dollar is a lot bigger, and it could mean the difference between being fed or starvation.
And knowing what I knew, it would have been morally wrong for me to ignore it and not act. It would have forced me to lower my expanded awareness and live lesser than I could, abeit the price being having less money to spend on myself, and I decided to contribute.
The point I don’t agree with the article is where it says to donate whatever you have that you don’t use on essentials. That’s a little extreme. There’s nothing wrong with wanting and having more in your life, if you want to buy a bigger TV to increase your quality of life, go ahead. The solution to poverty is not to become poor yourself! But if you’re making a comfortable living, with more than enough, can you also contribute? Because every little bit counts, doesn’t it?
You don’t have to give everything, but you can give something. You’ll still get that TV, but maybe a little later. But knowing at some level it’s because you’re spending money to help make a massive difference in someone’s life is a worthy price to pay, isn’t it?
So, I’ve told you that you have to make a choice. Now that you know all this, and perhaps you knew before but chose to ‘forget it’, you cannot not choose. Even not choosing is a choice. You see, the question isn’t whether or not you make a difference, because you do. The question is, what’s the quality of the difference you’re making?
Are you going to be part of the solution or part of the problem? Because the solution isn’t very far away from where you are now, and it doesn’t have to cost you a lot.
Everyone of us is Bob, at that train track. What are you going to choose?