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What every kid needs: a visit to poverty.

Most of the kids I know (including mine) are spoiled rotten. Their concepts of “normal life” are insane. I spend a lot of time in elementary and middle schools, and a good bit of time dealing with high school and university students, and none of them have any idea what ‘normal’ life really is.

This is because they have all lived in the first world their entire life. This is not a bad thing. Personally, I rather appreciate the fact that my kids have never had to live in the third world. Lack of the amenities we all take for granted is a real drag. The problem I have is that the kids have no idea what the word “need” means – not just in a language sense, but in a sense of true survival. Kids “need” cell phones, video games, pizza, the latest fashion, braces for their teeth, conditioner for their hair, zit cream for their faces, and a school trip to some far-away place (usually in late middle school or high school).

I think the kids should be a whole lot better served if they skipped the Spanish club trip to Mexico or Spain or wherever, the Band trip to Disney, and class trip to DC. Instead, pack the kids onto a plane, and send them to Malawi, Nicaragua, The Comoros, or Congo. Let them spend a month in an environment where they can see how the vast majority of people in the world live. I’m not saying that they should necessarily LIVE the life, but be close enough to it to start to understand that the real definition of “need” is “If I don’t have this, I will suffer great physical harm, and might even die”.

By exposing the kids to true poverty – real poverty – they are forced to take a look at their own lives. I certainly don’t expect the kids to completely change their lifestyles, but by simply opening their eyes to how good they have it, we can help them put things into perspective. By opening our kids eyes, we can set the stage to begin to make a difference. don’t get me wrong: poverty will ALWAYS be there. All I want is for kids to recognize that its there, and to have some understanding of what it really means.


2 Responses

  1. I do wonder if we need actual exposure to truly understand. I may be kidding myself, but I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on what “need” really is, though I’ve never witnessed abject poverty for myself.

    What we really lack is a sense of empathy and compassion; I think that’s the real point of this post…

    • Mrs. Chili, I think you’re one of the rare people that does understand, but in general, most people can’t without experiencing it in person.

      I’m not really talking about empathy and compassion here, although that IS something that I would hope would grow out of the experience. The real message is that most “first world” people have no idea of what real poverty is. I focus on the kids because most adults are so stuck in their ruts that even if they ARE exposed to it, unless THEY are the ones living it, they’ll never get it. Kids are perceptive enough to get it without having to actually starve for a month or two…

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