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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Someone needs to keep counting

By the end of today, poverty will claim the lives of 30,000 children. What is so troubling to me - beyond the fact that the vast majority of these deaths are completely preventable - is that few of us seem to notice or even know that so much humanity finds itself on the receiving end of poverty's final outcome – death.

Some would argue that comparisons of how many people die here versus there, wherever here and there may be, are neither relevant nor productive.

I would argue, however, that decisions are made every day, in every way, and everywhere, that determine the value of the most fragile among us – the children of our world. In fact, the evidence of these decisions is clear and present given that one child in the developing world will die every three seconds.

Recently, a HOPE International Development Agency volunteer and friend recalled a personal experience that illustrates the harsh reality of a child's life in the developing world.

Our volunteer was working alongside a Cambodian girl in Toul Krous, Cambodia, where villagers and volunteers were building an addition to the small school that serves the community.

As they were working, the young Cambodian girl suddenly stopped what she was doing and began shouting at a young boy carrying a small basket of earth toward the school's new foundation. At the time, our volunteer did not know what was happening but never the less, she was concerned. Later that day, she found out that the young boy was the brother of the young girl she had befriended and he was terribly sick, racked with fever and covered in open sores and blisters. Despite his suffering, he simply wanted to help.

It turns out though that the young girl had good reason to be concerned about her brother – she had lost so many siblings to disease and malnutrition she had actually lost count of how many had died.

Imagine being a young child and living in circumstances so desperate that you simply lose count of how many of your siblings, let alone friends, have died.

Imagine wanting to help, like the young boy, despite the terrible pain, suffering and very real possibility that you would lose your life as a result.

Are we, despite our health and wealth, desperate to help people who, without our help, are most certainly destined for endless suffering and, as is the case of far too many children in the developing world, death? If not, what reason would support such inaction?

Could it be that our material wealth is rivaled only by our moral impoverishment? Yes, someone needs to keep count and it needs to be you and I because if we forget, we are destined to lose what matters most – our humanity.

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