Would It Help If You Knew Her Name?

the-life-you-can-save-framed

If you look around you right now, do you see a bottle of water or canned soda on your desk? If so, you can save a child’s life.

But what child you ask?  If I respond that it is one of nearly 10 million children that die under the age of 5 each year from causes related to poverty, you will most likely acknowledge this tragedy, take a sip of the natural spring water and let your mind move on to a more interesting blog post.

But, what if I were to introduce you to a little girl named Mira who is dying of starvation. You hold her on your lap, feel the poor little skinny body grasping for every breath. Then I tell you that you can save her life by giving up one bottle of water would you do it? My guess is you would say yes in a heart beat.

This is my own crude way of trying to explain the premise behind the newly released book:  The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty by Peter Singer, a Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University.

One of the most common reactions I get when I tell people I am working to raise money for a girls orphanage in Africa is:  Why Africa when there are so many needy folks right here in our community?  As Singer writes ” It would simply not be true to say: ‘I can’t give a thousand dollars to help strangers in Africa, because I am human and humans are  less concerned about distant anonymous strangers than they are about people they know.'”

I happened to hear Peter Singer interviewed a few days ago on NPR and was so struck by his words that as soon as I got home I ordered the book.  This is the first time I had heard such an insightful argument for the need for all people to give, particularly to the poverty stricken in Third World Countries.  He proposes a “new public standard for a minimum that we should expect people to give to an organization helping helping people living in extreme poverty.”

One of his most powerful points is that if you can afford to buy bottled water when you have perfectly good tap water, then you are not giving enough and, in fact, you may be “leaving a child to die, a child you could have saved”.

Finally, thanks to Peter Singer, I have an answer not just for those who ask me this question but for why others should help efforts like my beloved Mothers Fighting For Others’ “Inspire the Child“.

Diane

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One Response to “Would It Help If You Knew Her Name?”

  1. Lola April 2, 2009 at 9:19 am #

    Diane, love has never had geographic boundaries. That’s the great thing about being a part of the human family here on earth.

    This sentence really resonates for me:

    As Singer writes ” It would simply not be true to say: ‘I can’t give a thousand dollars to help strangers in Africa, because I am human and humans are less concerned about distant anonymous strangers than they are about people they know.’”

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