Detours in Life
Often one of the most common detours in life is a downtown in personal finances. Whether it is from poor personal choices, changing life situations, or a turnabout in the economic marketplace, few people live their lives without experiencing this detour of life.
Born in Ghana, israelmore Ayivor knows something about poverty. “True compassion does not sit on the laps of renovation; it dives with an approach to reconstruction. Don’t throw a coin at a beggar. Rather, destroy his source of poverty.”
I don’t know of anyone except perhaps some psychopathic, deranged power-hungry leader of a fanatical faction that would say poverty is a good thing. Many of us, though, adopt a rather cynical attitude about it.
“There will be poor always pathetically starving. Look at the good things you’ve got.” The lines of the opening song shared by the characters of Judas and Jesus in the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” are how most of us approach poverty. It has always been; it will always be; I should still be able to enjoy what I have.
Most of us try to hold on the our “things” and grieve when a detour in life results in their loss. Each day we are bombarded with images and advertisements encouraging us of their importance and the need we should feel to gather more. It becomes an indication of who we are, a rite of progression through life. We start to believe that the more we have, the better persons we are living to be.
In his book “The Midnight Palace” Carlos Ruiz Zafon wrote: ““The fact is that nothing is more difficult to believe than the truth; conversely, nothing seduces like the power of lies, the greater the better. It’s only natural, and you will have to find the right balance. Having said that, let me add that this particular old woman hasn’t been collecting only years; she has also collected stories, and none sadder or more terrible than the one she’s about to tell you. You have been at the heart of this story without knowing it until today …”
Zafon’s book has little to do with poverty in the connotation we are speaking about but it brings up a very important fact. We all collect things every day. Sometimes we collect smiles and other times, headaches. IN this quote he writes of a woman who “hasn’t been collecting only years”. Sometimes we simply collect days, hours full of things that really do not seem to be making the difference in the world that we’d like to have as our legacy.
Most of us also collect change, coins given to pay for something with more coins being given back as , well, change. American currency especially seems to almost demand that when someone pays cash, they will get back change in return. The currency structure along with the number system used does not make for easy, even numbers, especially with varying tax bases for items that are sold. At the end of the day, most of us have change.
In the third book of her Moomins series, Tove Jansson had one of her characters recite: “You aren’t a collector anymore, you’re only an owner, and that isn’t nearly so much fun.” This Finnish children’s author realized what many of us take years to understand. Ownership is great but we need to also be collectors because if we aren’t, then what we own has very little value.
It is a common practice for men to empty their pockets of change at night before putting their slacks away. Women, since they usually carry a wallet with a coin section, seldom do this. What if we all started a change pot – a container in which to place our loose change at the end of each day? We could then donate this change to a charitable organization. By doing this, we would be collecting change, not just hours in a day, and taking ownership of the issue of poverty in the world.
“But I am on a budget” you might be thinking. “I haven’t anything to spare.” Let’s do thig. Put a nickel in your change pot every day – just one nickel USD or $.05 (five cents). At the end of the month you would have approximately one dollar in your change pot. I say approximately because…well, we sometimes forget.
What can one dollar buy? In Kenya two years ago you could purchase a pen (15 Ksh), an 80 page notebook (15 Ksh), a toothbrush (30 Ksh), and a little snack pack of spicy peanuts and mixed chips (25 Ksh, and full of carbs and protein) – all for one dollar. Many children in Kenya do not have a pen or paper and so they stay home from school and become part of the ever going cycle of poverty and terrorism, not to mention violence and human trafficking.
Your one nickel a day could educate a child in Kenya. One nickel a day can also provide a meal for a starving child around the world. Each year, poverty directly impacts children and it is responsible for the death of five million each year due to malnutrition or starvation. You one dollar a month can result in two hundred and fifty meals. If you had ten friends or coworkers who had ten friends or coworkers, you could each raise one hundred dollars with your nickel a day change pots and provide over two thousand meals to hungry children in the world.
Last year about this time we were discussing ways to alleviate poverty. We discussed several options and I offered a few ideas. Many offices have football pools, or lottery funds. Why not set up a change pot by the vending machines. That candy bar or soda really isn’t going to help your own nutrition but you can help another’s by simply donating a nickel or more each time you use the vending machine or water fountain. Think of it as giving thanks for your good fortunes, regardless of how small it may seem. Your five cents might seem like a drop in the vast ocean of world poverty but you know? It can be the only meal a child eats that day. By owning the problem of poverty, we can each make a difference and start collecting good feelings and a healthier, safer world.
But what if you are the one suddenly thrown into poverty, traveling that detour? Approach this turn in your journey as an opportunity and answer the call with confidence. Each of us is much more than the “stuff” we possess. All too often those material belongings start to own us instead of the other way around. They are not our identity; our spiritual being is.
Some detours in life are opportunities to make positive changes. It hurts and it is hard. Do not belittle this change, though, or let is drown you in fear and sorrow. Acknowledge your grief for times past and move forward down the road to better living. Michael Jackson once wrote: “Ease on down, ease on down the road. Come on, ease on down, ease on down the road. Don’t you carry nothing that might be a load. Come on, ease on down, ease on down the road.” It is excellent advice for when opportunity knocks and we find ourselves on a financial detour.