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December 5, 2005

I’m on a roll; I’ve never written this many entries within such a short
time span before.  I guess I have more time on my hands right now
than I’ve had for a while.

Anyway, I wanted to share a passage that I came across in my journal
from last year at this time, when I was nearing the end of my stay in
Brazil.  The passage, which follows below, makes a profound point:

“I’ve heard people criticize poor people who spend money on things like
TVs and makeup, but if these things are frivolous expenses, how can we justify buying them?  If people who need better nutrition and housing shouldn’t spend money on “stuff,” how come we can spend money on “stuff” when millions–billions–of our fellow seres humanos [human beings] need better nutrition and housing?”

This reflection was prompted by an afternoon I spent with two of the high school girls who were part of my capoeira
group.  The two girls, Cris and Kelly, are just like any
happy-go-lucky teenagers you might know; in fact, their giddiness
reminded me of Annie Robison and Sarah Nelson, two former FISH
kids.  Cris and Kelly, however, unlike Annie and Sarah, live in
tiny, plank-wood houses along rutted dirt roads in a satellite
community of Porto Alegre.  Their homes, though comfortable in the
summer, must be freezing in Porto Alegre’s three-month winter, and
likely flood during heavy rains, being on the downward slope of their
neighborhood. 

I remember being outraged by the conditions that these two beautiful,
talented young women live in–and I still am.  How can the middle-
and upper-class portoalegrenses let
so many people live in conditions like those in which Cris and Kelly
live in?  What justifies their spending money on flat-screen TVs,
DVD players, new cars, and fancy food when hardly half of Porto
Alegre’s population even has food, period?  The very same question
could be asked of people in every city and country of the world.

If it doesn’t make sense for poor people to spend money on anything
beyond basic needs until those needs are first met, then how does it
make sense for ANY of us to spend money on anything beyond basic needs
when so many people in the world still don’t have those needs
met?  I think it’s an important point to consider.

I ended my journal entry like this:  “Well, it’s late now and my
eyes are getting tired from the flourescent lights the Santos’ seem to
favor.  I’ll end here, but go to bed evermore committed to living
a simple life and working to help others simply live.”

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