Some days I feel like we are falling into a deep hole with no way out, dealing with autism issues, the economic situation, material things that we want and don’t have. Fortunately, every so often some good hard kick in the pants comes along to short-circuit my self-pity.
The Cabana Boy and I saw the film Slumdog Millionaire last week, about a young man from the slums of Mumbai who gets a chance to play the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? I was primarily amazed this movie would actually come here, as we seldom get indie-type films in our little town, so we caught its first showing.
There it was, that kick in the pants.
The depiction of daily life in the Indian slums, where gangs roam the streets randomly killing women and children as police officers watch from their tabled card games, where children subsist on a tablespoon of food for a meal, where women wash the family clothing in filthy water, was stunning.
Children work all day collecting recyclables from huge piles of garbage that circle the poor rattletrap homes, and likely dine there as well. The poor live in huge mini-cities made of walls of rusty metal, full of little corridors and warrens tying them all together. People have nothing, not even much chance of escaping the poverty that has dragged them down for generations.
Mumbai is not an isolated case, of course. Much of the Third World is the same. Even countries of great wealth, places like Nigeria, where diamonds provide the country with astounding income, don’t put that money back into building up its impoverished population.
Nor does the United States, for that matter. There are still children who go to bed hungry each night, which has long-term effects that surpass growling bellies, people without access to health care and decent housing. (If we can’t even feed and house them, how will we ever be able to get them educated in a way that meets world demands, considering where the U.S. stands?
As much as my children don’t have when compared to other children in our mostly Caucasian, middle-class community, they have riches and opportunities well beyond millions of other children in this world we share.
But I’m hopeful in the era of this new American administration, that the government will spend less time carrying out legacy wars and more time looking at the state of the world, both economically and ecologically. We have the chance to become once again the light of the world, to steer those who follow us in the direction of saving the people and the planet, not in its destruction.
The groundswell of support and energy that lifted Obama to office, however, needs to continue and build. Every person needs to commit themselves to changing business as usual and to make a difference with their own hands. It could be something as small as using Goodsearch for internet queries, giving money to charities without spending a penny of your own money, or other click-to-donate sites.
There are huge campaigns with fancy advertising like the One campaign and the Hunger Site. If you prefer hands-on, there’s Habitat for Humanity and Make a Difference Day in every community. Sign up online for Obama-endorsed USA Service.org. Volunteer to protect battered women, to save endangered species, to elect good candidates. Go green at your home. Teach your children the value of helping others and conservation of resources.
Can we eradicate the kind of poverty we saw in Slumdog Millionaire in our lifetime? I’m sure it’s wishful thinking. But if you had asked me, four years ago, if we could have elected a candidate of color to the White House in 2008 I wouldn’t have believed that, either. Obama’s attitude of “Yes, we can!” is the key. We must try. We must achieve. Every step must be a step forward. We accept nothing less in our children’s therapy; how can we accept less for the other children of the world?
Margaret Mead, in her oft-quoted remark, does say it best: “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”
Do you care? Let’s change the world.
*With acknowledgement to Sam Cooke and his legendary song.