Here’s What Happens When You Give $1,000 to Someone in Extreme Poverty
Andrew McDermott
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My wife and I agree exactly with you and your wife Adrienne, Andrew. We lived in China for 3 years, and we gave a “chinese” dollar to each person who asked us for one, every day, for three years. Our fellow expats, none of whom lived with us — we lived in the community there, used the same what I think of as pieces of shit arguments that people here in the United States do, to us. Where we live now in North Carolina, and where we lived the past four years before this, Los Angeles (we move a lot, too! We’re a little like you!) other people would ask us, why do you give that homeless guy money every day (“every time he asks you” “every time you see him”, whatever the question was)? And the same old horseshit the people said when we first started a 100%, you ask me I give it to you system: they may spend it on drugs/liquor is #1, and I bet the 2nd most stupid reason NOT to give people money who ask: #2: they probably earn more than we do, at work, and they drive a BMW.

Well, our answers, depending upon how much we feel like talking/arguing, how social we feel that day, how patient we feel at that moment is that is does not matter to me, not one single whit, what someone does with the money I give them! WTF does that have to do with anything?!

My intention is the only important part — of my part — in the exchange. Of course I think the receiver’s actions are important, in general. Their lives are of equal value to mine. But if the person is secretly rich and chooses to hold a sign by the intersection saying “Homeless. Anything will help!” to go and drive a BMW, god bless him. I wouldn’t do that job in order to drive a Mercedes. And if the person buys drugs or alcohol, also, so what. Maybe one day, if they live long enough, they will receive the help they need to improve their lives.

In any case, I live in America, where even the poor, and homeless get to eat every single day. I do believe there are people in America who may not eat every day. I do not know if I ate every day when I was a poor child. Probably I did, just not enough, EACH day for me to feel as though I were not poor. Sometimes I ate food that was given to us by a relative, or by a church dropping a box on the doorstep, etc. And there were a few times I can remember not eating. My parents did the best they could, but they were 17 year old high school drop-outs when I was born; they turned 18 the year I was born. My father was in Vietnam, drafted into the 25th Infantry Division to lie in mud and shoot at people. Sometimes, he said to me once (he rarely ever has spoken of it, but he said this once), the enemy was behind a village of poor people most of the time. If you were scared to shoot through the villagers chancing killing an innocent man, woman, or child, you could not shoot your enemy, sometimes, depending upon location. It was when my father was in Vietnam when we were most consistently hungry, I believe. I have some traumatic memories from that time. And so does my dad. His best friend, the only other man in his unit who had four children at home at the “old man” age of 25 was killed by his side.

Today when a homeless man asks me for a dollar, I’ll give him a five, because of your story, Andrew. And f*ck what any of these other top ten percent wealthiest people on earth think about it. Everyone is always scared that the poor are coming to take away all of your stuff. Especially if we have National Health Care, like every other Western Nation on earth, or if we stop incarcerating more of our citizens than any other country on earth, or if a Democrat is elected president, or if there isn’t an AR-15 for every man, woman, and child in America available for all of us to buy — according to the NRA and the GOP they own, lock, stock, and barrel.

But I digress into my petty political rhetoric, where you provide facts, and state your rational view that we all should think about this more, talk about this more, about Savior Barbie, about how Haitian people still do not all have clean water to drink, because when all of the rich nations on earth get together and try to help a place whose peoples really need help (like Haiti after a hurricane or earthquake), they fuck it up. Because all of the cash is not given to Haitians like you argue it should be. And all data points to Yes on this question. Just look at USAID in Haiti for an example. Millions upon millions of dollars go to some American politicians brother-in-law’s company to build whatever he can build. And you ask a Haitian what he would have done with that money, he can provide a brilliant use of the money to provide what local people truly need: jobs. Jobs planning how to spend the aid money, then jobs building the housing structures and clean water delivery systems to those in need.

Instead, we give them an all-purpose gymnasium and soccer field dedicated by Michael Jordan or Bono, and it never gets used, but it made a USAID subcontractor rich, and the poor people of Haiti can use the building to piss on the wall when they walk by. Since it doesn’t have clean water, or electricity or power running to it and is unusable.

I will look into the organization you talk about. I agree with your findings completely, sir. And I will paste your link to givedirectly.org on my Facebook page, and to people I know who care.

One last story. I was riding through Wyoming on my motorcycle on the way home to Chicago one time, filling up at a gas station. A woman approached me and told me a sad tale, I’m going to see my pregnant daughter in Colorado. She needs help and I want to help her, but I don’t have enough gas to get there, if you could help me with a fill up. I was filling my bike with 5 gallons for 15 bucks or whatever it was that year, and I was on a tight budget, I told her. I could help her out with five dollars. She said thank you. She pulled up her car, and I put five dollars into her Mercedes for her. Oh, how I laughed! I told her, oh my god this is a good story. Why? She asked. Because I know people who never give a dollar to another person, saying they probably drive a Mercedes. I wished her good luck and we parted ways. I hope she got where she was going. Her car was not new; I’m sure it was over ten years old as a matter of fact, and I would not have traded her, and that was my cheapest bike, a KLR 650 (I know, everyone on the road said you rode THAT to Montana?!) but hey, those are good bikes. Where you are now, people ride 125s, am I right? Where we lived in China, even the police rode 125s.

Peace, brother. I love you and your wife, & what you are doing, as I also do the two kids who made Salaam, Neighbor, and Living on One Dollar, the documentaries. http://livingonone.org/

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