Poverty

October 21, 2016: Millions

About 5 million people have millions of dollars in the US. Over eight times as many people are poor. That’s over 40 million people. There are about 15 million people with millions of dollars in the world.  Over two hundred times as many people are poor. That’s over 3,000 million people. Or 3 billion. Just under one half of those people are extremely poor. That’s 1,300 million people. Or 1.3 billion.

Income inequality paints a stark picture of a world of haves and have nots. Progress has undoubtedly been made, especially in ending extreme poverty. Yet a story of just one poor human being is enough, let alone 40 million in the richest nation on Earth or 3,000 million in the world.

 

 

Pyramid Street

October 20, 2016: Ancient

Pyramid Street is the most chaotic in Cairo. Lanes and traffic lights are a dream. Hatchbacks, microbuses, mopeds, trucks, donkeys, carts, men, women, children, cats and dogs all share a big road made narrow by the fruit stands and shacks encroaching ever-further from the broken and muddy sidewalks. An inch of space is quickly overtaken by the next person anxious to get ahead. Manners and patience bring no benefits on Pyramid Street. Large tourist buses have no choice but to take this path to their destination – the other roads are either too small for buses or too broken to allow for any vehicle but a moped. Taxis with foreigners barely move an inch without being stopped by an unofficially official tour guide hoping to earn a few disloyal piasters in order to bite into a falafel sandwich. At the end of Pyramid Street stand the Great Pyramids of Giza. Magnificent remnants of the glory of Ancient Egypt, thousands of years earlier. Eternal monuments of humanity’s greatest civilization, juxtaposed at the foot of Pyramid Street.

 

 

Early Bear

October 19, 2016: Underground

The anxiety underground reached fever pitch. Months of peaceful hibernation interrupted by footsteps – light and heavy, swift and slow – on the ground above. Restlessness took hold of the adolescent bear as she wondered what action was being accomplished above. Her brain rested and neurons connected, her thoughts were the first to emerge from hibernation. She thought of what to think of the interrupting footsteps. A slower pace led her to think of a mindful stroll through the blossoming bushels of spring. Oh how she would love that. A faster pace led her to picture a giant lake waiting for her to dive into with glee and joy. Oh how she would love that. The multiple footsteps led her to imagine a companion by her side to share hopes, dreams, and fears with. Oh how she would love that. What lay above was within her reach, she reminded herself. This was not her first Spring. She rolled over from her back side and desperately began clawing at the ground above. Making her way above ground, she roared and stretched her claws high to the blue sky. She turned around and saw no other bears. She wondered then where the footsteps she thought she heard came from. Alas, her anxiety had been imagined by her impatience. “Lesson learned,” she told herself as she made her way to a single bush that was the only one yet to have blossomed its flowers.

 

Change

October 9, 2016: Careful

His character was given and it was so that he was careful by nature. Too careful, in fact: risk averse was an understatement. Yet, it fit with his world view, and so he was content.  This, of course, until his world view was shattered. The more he lived, the more he learned. He came to understand that things never remain as they are. He learned that things change, and they can change for better or for worse. Newly accustomed to risk and reward, he began to take chances.  Careful! Be careful of being too careful, he began to tell himself.

 

Discussions and Debates

October 8, 2016: Argument

Discussions can often turn into debates, sometimes for better and other times for worse. Discussions consist of exchanges of information and ideas without a particular position necessarily being adopted or promoted. Often discussions lead to the adoption of a position, and then the promotion of that position. Either the discussants agree, or they disagree and begin to debate over the positions being promoted. Healthy debates consist of arguments. Arguments advance a position or view using logic. Good arguments are built on sound logic. A leading argument therefore enhances understanding. Unhealthy debates consist of bad arguments or no arguments at all. Either the logic is lacks merit, or a position is being advanced without argument but by imposition. Debates with arguments are for the better. Debates without them are for the worse.

 

Unknown-Zone

October 7, 2016: Border

Our attitudes converged as soon as we crossed the border. Approaching the border, however, our hopes and fears criss-crossed in different directions. Li’s thrill for adventure clashed with my apprehension of alien custom. Antawn’s curiosity challenged Yohann’s presumptions. Sherine’s poise complemented Winnie’s zeal. You Are Now Entering Unknown-Zone. We looked back at Comfort-Zone in ambivalence. The old buildings of Unknown-Zone were thousands of years old and the people were tall and short, wide and thin, dark and light, hip and classic, young and old. Our hopes and fears from Comfort Zone faded into narrow streets and alleys that sprung from the main boulevard like branches and vines. Each one of us now was silent, watching, observing, smelling and feeling. How comfortable Unknown-Zone was!

 

Stay the Course

October 6, 2016: Realize

Left and right and all about he looked. Under the sheets, between the pillows, and behind the curtains. In the ditch behind the shed, in the pile of leaves by the garden, and in the mailbox by the driveway. Up and down the street, through the back alleys, and between the two creeks. In his memories, in his heart, and in his soul. After looking and searching, he realized that there is no point in the pursuit. What he seeks will come to him if he stays the course. All he must do is believe it.

 

Break It All

October 3, 2016: Breakthrough

Break through.

Break through the past to step into the present. Break through the fear to see clear. Break through the pain to appreciate love. Break through the doubts with a faith in yourself and life itself.

Of course, it is the breaking through that warrants our honesty, our efforts, our confrontation with ourselves.

Nothing less than a breakthrough to break through. So break it. Break it all and see it through.

 

Relative

October 2, 2016: Value

Family Values. City Values. New York City values. Paris Values. Cairo Values. Nairobi Values. Delhi Values. Bogota Values. Country Values. Farmer Values. Folk Values. Traditional Values. Modern Values. Religious Values. Spiritual Values. Moral Values.

Objective and Subjective Values.

 

Art’s Life

October 1, 2016: Graceful

It wasn’t easy for Art. From an early age, he had to fend for himself. Through adolescence, his primary concern was finding food to eat and a place to sleep. He understood that nothing would ever be given to him. That it is up to him not only to survive, but to thrive. His resilience led him to college despite all the odds against him. His ambition rewarded him with a job. His faith kept him optimistic, always believing that there is love around the corner. Art felt blessed to start a family of his own. Just as he felt that his life became whole and secure, a tragic car accident took his wife, son and daughter from him. Soon thereafter, a capricious business partner stole all his wealth. To make matters worse, an uncontrollable fire burned his house down, taking all of the memories he made with his family there with it. No stranger to the vicissitudes of life, Art turned to his faith. But without his family, it was hard to believe that love would be around the corner again. Instead, he directed all his wherewithal to helping others, to mentoring young children who were burdened with the same disadvantages he was burdened with as a young boy. He found a group to volunteer with and looked forward to his first day. The morning of his first day, though, Art did not wake up. He had taken his last breathe soon after he fell asleep the night before, at just 44 years of age.

Hours passed until the other volunteers called Art to check on him, wondering why he did not show up on his first day after expressing such care and concern for the young children that the organization served. With no answer to their calls, one of the volunteers went to the public housing project that Art had been staying in since his house burned down two years ago. The volunteer knocked on Art’s door but there was no answer. The door was unlocked (Art always left his door unlocked, fearful that another fire would follow him to his last refuge) and the volunteer made her way inside the apartment. She called for Art but there was still no response, just the sound of her echo bouncing from the bare walls. Inching towards the bedroom, she found Art. He was lying there in his bed, as graceful as the angel that carried his soul to peace.