When I say “I have no money”, I mean I don’t have as much as I’d like. When I say “I have no money”, I mean I’m saving up for something else. When I say “I have no money”, I mean I’ve already spent it on something else. Unfortunately, when so many people around the world say they have no money, it means they have no money.
We hear so many statistics like how the hundred richest people in the world earned enough money in 2012 to end global poverty four times over. Or how if every premiership football player were to give up their wages for just one week, they too could end poverty. It’s infuriating and we think to ourselves, well why don’t they then? Surely when you’re that rich, it would be easy to give up a quarter of your salary or even just one week’s wages? But maybe that’s it. Maybe these people also think it’s someone else’s responsibility. Maybe we all hear the statistics that don’t directly apply to us. We all think it’s down to the rich but what if I said owning an average house without a mortgage in London puts you in the richest 1% of the world and that it has been predicted that by next year, the richest 1% of the world will own more than half of the global wealth. If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world. If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s most wealthy.
People living in extreme poverty are not a minority group. Nearly half the world’s population live on less than $2 a day. This week I’m living back below the line in an attempt to get an idea of how this might feel. I’ve already been hungry and grumpy and eating really quite grim food but I’m only doing it for five days. Also, living on £1 a day in the situation I’ve been blessed with is nothing compared to people living in genuine poverty. The most common things I’ve heard have been “surely if you’re being offered it…?” and “technically you’re not paying for it…” True. But if I accept a free glass of squash at a friend’s house, what’s to stop me having a biscuit with my drink after church? And if I’ve had a biscuit with my drink, I might as well have the cake being offered in the meeting. The thing is, it’s very difficult to live below the line if you don’t know where the line is. And I have been blessed with a very fortunate situation and it would be very easy to live for five days without actually paying for anything. Day one a group of us were invited round a friend’s house for dinner where she cooked us a big lasagne, with all the works; salad, garlic bread and strudel, doughnuts and ice cream for pudding. Day two I went to a birthday gathering where I was offered a beautiful looking chocolate cake with caramel and rolos. We also had cake in the break of a committee meeting and often when I talk about it with friends, they offer to buy me food. It’s lovely but few of the people actually living below the line find themselves living also among the wealthiest people. I’m incredibly lucky to have the friends that I have but this week is about recognising those that don’t.
Also, for people genuinely in this situation, less than $2 a day has got to stretch a lot further than just food and drink. When in Kenya, I saw children unable to participate in lessons in school because they couldn’t afford exercise books the equivalent of 4p, we made obscene amounts of squash for the children from water that was unsafe for us to drink and watched children trip up on the playground as they were unable to buy shoes. This week I thought I’d take the challenge further and not pay for anything at all other than food or drink but I found, unfortunately, this just wasn’t really possible. I realised just how much money we spend without even knowing. Whether it’s on doing my laundry, getting into town or even just printing I have had to spend money this week although I am of course trying to keep this excess to a bare minimum.
So, you may not be a premiership football player, or one of the hundred richest people in the world but if you have just read this blog post, you are more fortunate than the three billion people in the world who cannot read at all, so maybe just take a second to realise how fortunate you really are 🙂