I woke up this morning after a comfortable night's sleep. Comfy pillow. Electric blanket. Good, hearty breakfast. A hot shower. A clean glass of water. I dressed the three children in stylish clothing (my wife didn't think so), and then dropped them off at childcare and school in my 8-seater 2015 Kia Carnival.
This is just a normal day. A day in the life of Peter Brookshaw. It's uneventful. It's nothing to write home about.
Until I put it side-by-side with the reality of the life of a billion other human beings.
Suddenly I realise, how much I take for granted. A comfortable night's sleep presupposes I have a roof over my head, a bed worthy of sleeping on and a pillow that supports my neck and shoulders. Drinking that glass of water is so easy, because someone built the infrastructure that allowed me to twist the faucet (tap) to receive water. I am able to flush that toilet... you get the picture.
We aim to end extreme poverty by 2030. Well that's the goal 193 member states of the United Nations devised in 2015, articulated as goal number one of the Sustainable Development Goals. (People living on less than $1.25 a day are said to be living in extreme poverty).
The problem is, when I think of doing my part to end extreme poverty, I feel powerless and useless. You might be in the same boat. Our eyes end up glazing over when we hear of yet another charity devised to raise much needed funds for a particular well-meaning cause. We've only got so much money. It's not that the charity is not worthy and the cause not admirable, but we just don't have the financial capacity to do anything substantial.
I believe that most of us want to make a difference. We feel a moral obligation to support the poor and vulnerable.
Etched in our minds is a picture of an African child who is severely malnourished and in need of immediate medical attention. Our hearts are then torn between the need that so clearly exists and our capacity to do anything about it.
We hear stories of the scores of children dying because they got stung by a mosquito. As Bono once said, "'Death by mosquito bite?' We ask ourselves, 'How could we possibly allow that to happen?' 'Surely we can make a difference?'" Then our minds once again resort to helplessness.
'Well, unless I'm an influential politician, I can't change much!'
'Until I'm earning the big bucks, I can't contribute much!'
The challenge is this: We need to stop making excuses. The little you can help, helps. Eliminating extreme poverty and eradicating preventable diseases, need not simply be an 'out-there' kind of problem. There are practical ways we can help to eradicate extreme poverty:
Sponsor a child. My wife and I put some money aside to support a Salvation Army children's home in Sri Lanka. Every bit helps.
Write to a politician about the frugal amount set aside for foreign aid. Express your desire for the percentage given in relation to GDP to increase.
Tell stories about the need for living in a more just and equitable society. Remind each other of the affluence you live in. Don't take it for granted.
Let your voice be heard. Tell political parties that global concerns are your concerns. Many political leaders try to win votes by honing in on local issues. Let it be known, that global issues are also important to you.
Support a local school in their endeavours to educate the next generation. A great education is one key to eliminating extreme poverty. Aid agencies are teaching farmers how to successfully grow food, or upskilling workers on management and economics. Education will lift people out of extreme poverty.
Share your resources. Let that idea go viral. The disparity between the rich and poor is astounding and is an indictment on us. It highlights the inherent greed we have to establish our own wealth, to the neglect of others. Do your part and give generously and share liberally.
We may still feel fairly powerless to make the great changes that are needed to eliminate extreme poverty. Though if there is enough of a ground swell of people who are intent on putting the needs of the poor and vulnerable at the forefront of the economic and social agenda, change will happen.
Maybe then, we will eliminate extreme poverty by 2030.
Pete Brookshaw is the Senior Minister of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of Business and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith.
Peter Brookshaw's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/peter-brookshaw.html