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Thursday, October 2, 2008

How do you define risk?

Risk, uncertainty, fear - these words are popping up everywhere right now. In the media, in our political debates, in our public and private spheres, people are expressing serious fears about the future.

While the economic meltdown in the United States is nothing to celebrate, it could provide an opportunity for Westerners to grow in compassion.

We might, for example, wake up in the morning and say, ‘What will happen if my investments don’t recover?’ We could dwell on this fear, choose to forget everybody, ignore everything and just hunker down until times are better. Or, we could follow this thought with, ‘If losing this money makes me this afraid, then what is it like to lose the ability to feed myself and my kids?’

At best, a typical family in Bangladesh might have $5 a day to spend, $3 of which would go towards food. But if food prices rise just 50%, they would lose $1.50 out of their total budget and have just $0.50 left for everything else.

That is risk, uncertainty and fear. That is profound and terrifying loss.

As bad as it gets for the middle-class of the world, we can’t forget that there are opportunities to provide security, hope, and courage to the world’s ‘bottom billion’. If we are demanding the kind of changes that will make our economic system more sustainable and reliable, then shouldn’t we also seek the changes that will do the same for families in countries like Bangladesh?

Such changes exist. Investigate the simple ones you can personally manage to support, and don’t let fear trump compassion.

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