Monday, December 8, 2008

Advent Conspiracy (Spend Less) part 1

I made a little video for the second week of Advent Conspiracy, which turned out a little less extraordinary than I expected, but effective nonetheless. I went to Fashion Square in Scottsdale to talk about spending less this Christmas season. I shared a number of statistics, like how Americans will likely spend around 470 billion dollars this holiday season despite economic struggles. There's also the statistic that 1.1 billion people don't have access to clean drinking water, and around 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation. I also shared that it's not just an adult issue; teenagers spent about $159 billion in 2006 buying stuff (iPods, fast food, pairs of shoes, frappachinos, etc.) while around 30,000 children died every day from preventable diseases. (For more info, click here and read the United Nations 400+ page long report about global poverty).

I also showed some pictures of families from around the world and their weekly groceries and cost. Here is an American family (weekly expenditure: $341.98):

Here is a family from Ecuador ($31.55; I love the dad's grin!):

From Bhutan ($5.03):

From Chad ($1.23):

While I don't have stats for it, I'm willing to bet that most Americans have two emotional responses to hearing information about poverty in the world. First, we feel guilty. We feel bad that we have so much while others have nothing, especially knowing that my Starbucks coffee this morning cost more than what people will spend on food for their family in a week. Second, we feel overwhelmed. Billions of people, billions of dollars, thousands of miles away...these are numbers that leave us feeling helpless. How can I, one middle-class guy in Arizona, even begin to know how to make a dent in such an astronomical problem? And think about the junior high students; they don't even have jobs or cars. How could they even begin to make a difference?

When we combine feeling guilty and overwhelmed, it generally leads to inaction and apathy. We'd rather pretend that our world is the world and choose to see global problems as just that--problems. We don't see the faces of people living in these conditions, and the problem is so massive that we figure someone else much smarter and richer can take care of it.

Lest I sound too cynical, I believe that God offers us an alternate response to inaction: love. More on that tomorrow.

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