Count to five

A child has died.

In the time it takes you to read the first few sentences of this post, another child will die of starvation. In fact, right now in our world, a child dies of hunger every five seconds –  over 16,000 (SIXTEEN THOUSAND) – a day.

I know it’s depressing, and I know there’s nothing that you, whoever you are – no matter how rich or powerful or beautiful or talented or good or kind you are; even if you’re Bill Gates or Angelina Jolie or Mother Teresa or Oprah – can do to fix that. But I’m willing to bet you could fix it for one person. Or maybe even two.

And I’m not trying to guilt trip you or lay it on thick like those ads with the lady who used to play the sister on “Roseanne” and the heart wrenching story about David and how he’s raising all his siblings even though he’s only eleven years old and how he goes hungry because they need food…but it’s probably true. And even if it’s not true or if David’s life got turned around or ended completely, there are no doubt thousands of other Davids out there.

And lest you think it’s an isolated problem in uneducated or backwards countries, be aware that in this country, in the United States, one in seven people do not have enough to eat.

I’ve had this idea to write to write a cookbook for people living on food stamps and welfare to help them figure out how to make $300 a month cover four people and show them how to cook simple whole foods and not force them to eat processed crap and somehow fund the book so that the people who need it can have it for free (because if you can’t afford to eat, where in the hell are you going to get money for a cookbook?), and  on some level I’m not even sure it’s possible (both good food on that budget or the free cookbook), but I have determined that that will now be at the top of my ‘to do’ list when I finally get my current book out to agents. But I digress.

I guess it just occurred to me that today was Thanksgiving, a day when we usually stuff ourselves full of incredible amounts of rich, delicious food, and it maybe was a good day to remember how freaking fortunate we are. And to be thankful. And humble. And grateful to whatever magical force or spiritual power or karma or great good fortune made us the lucky ones. Because somehow I wasn’t born in a desert  in Africa or on the streets of India, and to the best of my knowledge that wasn’t any great calculation or just reward on my part, but just plain dumb luck.

Although I am by no means a guru, I like to think I know a thing or two about a thing or two. And I’ve convinced a few other gullible souls of that. And once in a while, a friend will approach me with concerns about money or want some counseling about or ask for help in achieving abundance. And although I have an advanced degree in business, no one has ever approached me with these issues because they thought I could write them a great business plan (although I probably could) or tell them which stocks to buy (at which I’m not so bright as evidenced by my own dwindling holdings), but more in the spirit of what I guess you could call metaphysical guidance.

And assuming that you would like to have some of this knowledge too, and because I am happy to share it, I will tell you now a secret at the heart of abundance: The mere fact that you are sitting at a computer somewhere reading this and possibly in your own home and hopefully with a full belly or a way to fulfill it means that you are already prosperous in a way that so many of the people of this world will never know.

And abundance starts with gratitude: Gratitude for the exorbitant bills you have to pay; gratitude for the paycheck from the soul-stifling job at Wal-Mart that provides the money to pay them with; even gratitude for the time you had with the car before it was repossessed.

And then, if I haven’t already lost you with that, let me share with you the second paradoxical truth: Abundance comes when you learn to give when it hurts most to give and where it’s the scariest and when you really don’t think you can spare it. So it’s about giving your time,  your attention, your love, your energy, your support, your encouragement, your unbridled enthusiasm, your knowledge, and your patience. And it’s even quite literally about giving money, particularly if it’s hard to give money. (And if you have lots of money and it’s not so hard to give, then it’s not unreasonable to suppose that you may dedicate a lot of time making that money, and thus time is hard for you to give. And so there you find the answer to your own riddle.)

This is the picture from Summer 2008

This is the picture from Summer 2008

And in my case, one month before I left for Europe – knowing damn well that I had no income and wasn’t sure when I would once again have income (and technically still haven’t had income in a year and three months) – I ‘adopted’ an SOS Children’s Villages child. And I did it because it was hard. And my instincts were to cling to what I had and hoard it and look out for number one and make sure I had enough to eat and everybody else could fend for their own damn selves.

But thankfully I don’t often listen to Jerk Vanessa.

And they asked for $25 a month, so I signed myself up for $50. And they asked if I had a country I wanted or a sex I preferred, and I checked ‘wherever it is most needed’.

And my kid is Asseita and she lives in Burkina Faso in Africa (a country I’d never heard of before her), and they send me pictures of her and she has never once answered one of my letters, and I have no idea if the gifts I sent to the village last Christmas made it because in January I got a letter greeting me like I was a new sponsor, and it’s a very one-sided “I give and Asseita takes” relationship and once in a while I see that debit in my bank account and think, “I should cancel that! I can’t afford that!” but the reality is that that is bullshit.

This is the one from February of 2009

This is the one from February of 2009

I am an educated person.

I am an American.

I have opportunity and advantages and I have them because I’m really freaking lucky. And in a strange kind of way, it’s my duty to repay that luck by helping someone – an orphan with no one else to help her – go to school and grow up strong and be able to live in a village in her home country where these amazing women act as mothers to all these children. And I can help ensure that she learns to read despite growing up in a country with the lowest literacy rate in the world. And, by golly, I can make sure she has enough to eat.

And again, ‘technically’ I do not have $50 a month to spare.

And yet I do.
Because that’s the way abundance works: You give, and you find there’s always more. There’s always enough to provide for you, and the more you willingly give of yourself, the more that comes to you in all respects.

Seriously.

Try it.

Even if it doesn’t work exactly the way you think I’ve just described and promised, something else wonderful will happen. It’s guaranteed.

So happy Thanksgiving to you, and even if it’s not Thanksgiving where you live, I sincerely wish you a wonderful, food-filled, family/friend/love/laughter-filled day. And if somehow you’re moved by this and decide to toss a little of your own ‘not quite enough’ into the ethers in order to help one of the 16,000, here is a link:

http://www.sos-childrensvillages.org/pages/default.aspx

I researched all the charities before deciding on this one, and they really are top notch (and even if the kid doesn’t write back, the lovely women raising them do and send you a picture and tell you about their hobbies and likes and dislikes. Asseita likes to sing and dance and last year she liked to play with plastic animals.) Plus, the next time you see David on TV you’ll know that you’re doing what you can, which is really all we can ask of ourselves in life.

Shine on.

Peace and blessings and Namaste,

Vanessa

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4 Responses to “Count to five”

  1. Jose

    This post was inspiring. Thank you Vanessa!

    Poverty and hunger must be solved, and can be with a little effort. I have this song playing on my mind, all the time, about the urgency of the problem

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKDrhKwfXmo

    Have you read Jeffrey Sachs´”End of Poverty?” The message in it: the problem CAN be solved, without a great effort, in a few years. If we want to.

    What can we do? I love your Children´s Villages idea. I help two other iniciatives, I want to present here to all of you.

    One is PLAYPUMPS. Water can save millions of lives. And these people had the incredible idea of bringing it, through playing. Amazing story.
    http://blog.playpumps.org/home/

    The other one is Plumpy’nut
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VSCMoRDp2c

    Here you have some info about Doctors without borders, who are distributing it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnwX2U6sqK4

    WE CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE!

    Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.
    And specially to Vanessa, for posting this.
    Namaste
    Jose

  2. The Fat Geek

    Something else that we can all do is make Ripple our homepage.

    Check it out: http://www.ripple.org/

    It costs nothing, you just click and the folks that advertise makes the payment. If you make it your homepage, you remember to click every-time you use the computer.

  3. Pixielphalacio

    Engineers without Borders get my meager, but regular, donation. They do many water projects, usually solar or wind powered. One small project can save an entire village, and it’s mostly the women who have to schlep water from a far away well or watering hole, spending hours and hours each way.

    http://www.ewb.jhu.edu/

    Hope your nostril feels better.

  4. Pixielphalacio

    Did you mention the collider in this post? Can’t remember, but, please, the super-collider or whatever is good for science, and the cost is minimal in comparison to the Congressional Military Industrial/”Security”/”Anti-terrorism” Complex. (Trademark)

    wink wink.

    A family of four in WA, 2p, 2k (rare I know) with one parent staying home, and one making a bit over minimum wage (not uncommon) would receive over $440 in “Basic Food” benefits. That might be be a little easier for you to write and have confidence in creating such cookbook within food budgetary concerns. Assume the kids will get near free “hot lunch” at school, and the”bread-winner” packs a lunch from home.

    That’s nearly $15. a day. I think it can be done with healthy food, and you can write the definitive cookbook on such. We’ll talk marketing distribution later, but this will be a paying gig, nice, but not insanely lucrative (not that you’d expect such, but it would be nice).

    Meat consumption is healthy, for most people, at most 3-4 times a week. Cost is prohibitive/limiting. Cut it down. “Diet for a small planet”, sure you know that one.