The past six months have been indescribable. I’ve attempted to wrap my thoughts around them and put them to words, but the result does not compare to the experience. I’m home now, trying to find a way to live here, in this world, with the same passion that comes so naturally when given the constant inspiration and education I received from Kiva’s entrepreneurs. Here are some thoughts I scrambled together on the plane ride home, reflecting on what there is left to do and how to possibly take on the challenge:

Poor little rich girl with the luxury of picking around the slightly bruised grapes, choosing not to eat the peas and carrots accompanying the mashed potatoes. What must it be like to not think that way; to feed your child dirt to quell the pangs coming forth from their tiny helpless body? Part of me almost wishes I knew, just so I could identify with those who own this as their reality. Because I can never know, no matter how close to it I live, how many mothers I see defeated, how many sighs of helplessness I breath. Trying to understand it is like trying to understand war by watching Glory, love by reading Shakespeare. I can get lots of ideas, form my opinions, decide what I think the best solutions might be, but I can never know it. It is a part of me in an entirely different way than it is a part of them. They are teaching me. I selfishly benefit from their misfortunate birth into poverty. I can choose to learn from them, or to go elsewhere and learn from someone or something else instead. But for them, the choice is only present in the decision to get up and fight one more day.

The world is perfectly cruel and wonderful, tilted just like the earth itself to bring constant periods of light and dark. In all its unbalanced harmony, where a small percent of the population controls the vast majority of the world’s wealth, there is enough. The problem is, not for a second, resources. The problem is distribution. Distribution of food, water, education, opportunity. There is enough food on the earth for each person, all 6.6 billion of us, to eat almost 3000 calories a day. But while we fill up on free refills and seconds and thirds at the buffet, others feed their children dirt, simply to temporarily relieve the unimaginable ache that haunts every waking moment.

I don’t know who said it, but I’ve often repeated to myself the phrase ‘comfort is a vice’ over the past six months. Comfort can be wonderful and good, but the things it keeps us from doing are dangerous. Comfort keeps us from committing to the voice within us telling us to act when we see something that needs to change. Comfort encourages us to drive on, live our lives in the warmth of our home, enjoying the fruits of our labor while ignoring the barrenness of theirs. Maybe if it were our neighbor who was feeding their child dirt for every meal, maybe then we wouldn’t cling to comfort. But isn’t it our neighbor? Our mother, our brother, our friend?

There are society’s solutions to poverty–give of your money to every charity that knocks at your door, or volunteer your time until you are so exhausted you have no more time to give. Maybe if you donate both of these gifts, you won’t have to be annoyed with guilt from the wonderful burden of knowing that you do have the power to change the world. But basing your role in change on society’s validation doesn’t work. Listen to yourself. You know your truth, you know how to press your inner comfort levels, to challenge your abilities and be an agent for change. The world needs not only our money and our time; it needs our talents, our compassion, our love, our attention. If you could make a change in the world, in your country, your city, your home, what would you do?

If your brother were born without sight, would you read him stories? Share your knowledge? If your sister had no legs, would you carry her? If your daughter were mute, would you speak for her? If your son was hurt on the side of the road with no way of calling for help, and all who passed him by looked the other way, what would you feel? Would you be his voice? How would you help him find his voice so he could be the voice for another?

Instead of anger, choose resolution. Instead of hate, choose love. And instead of indifference, choose action. Choose to be moved by the quiet voice in your head that is so easily ignored. Listen to it. Instead of just talking about all the world’s problems, take the guidance from Gandhi; Be the change you wish to see in the world.


About the author

Maren Misner