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Smartphones, Moonwalks and a Billion Hungry People
It is an absurd world that we live in.
In 1969, humanity watched as men got in a ship, flew through space and walked on the moon. In 1969. On the moon. Seriously. They walked on the moon. Are you kidding me?
Today, less than 50 years later, I can turn on my phone and talk to my friends in Nepal and Kenya. I can use my phone to take a picture, edit it, and have it mailed to my fiancée as a postcard. I use my phone to identify the song playing in the room, along with its artist, album and lyrics. And then I can buy it. I can do just about anything on my phone. In fact, in 2012, my cell phone has more computing power than NASA in 1969. That is ridiculously amazing.
And today, in 2012, boys dig through dumps filled with refuse, disease and dangerously sharp objects to find items to recycle and make a few pennies. In 2012, girls swallow rocks to try and fill their stomachs. In 2012, women are trafficked for sex. In 2012, men lie under bridges, dying from diseases and loneliness.
How is it that in 1969 men walked on the moon, and in 2012, 1 billion people go to bed hungry every night? This, to me, is absurd. How can humanity have such intelligence, determination, passion, innovation, and curiosity to create a smartphone and make it accessible to millions of people, while 780 million people lack access to safe drinking water and an estimated 30 million people are enslaved? As Ray Lamontagne laments, “I don’t understand it.”
Amidst the ridiculous contradictions of this world, hope can be found. Surely, if we can pour resources into a space program, utilize science and technology to build spaceships, and rally a people around a common cause of putting a man on the moon – surely we can make radical inroads into the problems of hunger, thirst, disease and slavery that plague this world. Indeed, it was the famous moonwalker, Buzz Aldrin, who said, “If we can conquer space, we can conquer childhood hunger.”
To do this requires a change in priorities. Too often compassion and love for our neighbor is something we do in our spare time. We live our lives in competition, pursuing comfort, security, convenience, and upward mobility. Loving our neighbor is then relegated to Sunday morning or a Monday evening service project.
But what if compassion became the priority? What if love for our neighbor infiltrated our corporations, public policies, banks, newspapers, classrooms, churches, institutions, and daily lives? What if we utilized our intelligence, passion, innovation, determination and creativity – not for ourselves – but for others?
If more of us worked together to pursue solidarity with the poor, liberation for the oppressed, and compassion for the suffering, then the world might be a different place. And in 50 years, maybe, just maybe, we won’t have to wonder at the absurdity of 1 billion hungry people.