Days 42-45: When I was eleven years old I was lucky enough to take three months off school to travel around the world. I vividly recall my mother telling me, “Travelling will teach you far more about life than school ever could” – perhaps the greatest piece of wisdom I have ever recieved. Highlights included a visit Disneyland in California, seeing our family castle in Scotland and swimming with dolphins in Hawaii. But the place that had the most lasting impact was Zimbabwe, which brought on the biggest sense of culture shock I have ever felt. It was overflowing with spectacular scenery and wildlife. It was also the first time I had experienced a third-world country, seen slums the size of cities, people sleeping in the gutter and tiny children with no legs.
Upon returning home I was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude at having clean water running from our taps, a comfortable place to sleep that was free of bed bugs, and a huge range of fresh fruit and vegetables to consume. I felt incredibly lucky to have been born in Australia, where I did not have to deal with the hardships of poverty and homelessness. It was not until later that I understood that these issues are not confined to one single country or even one continent – poverty does not discriminate. There are 1.4 billion people all over the world living beneath the poverty line, both in third-world countries and (literally) on our doorstep.
But as always it is not all bad news and there are things we can individually do to bring about positive change. This is Live Below the Line week, and over six thousand Australians are taking up the challenge to live on $2 a day in order to raise money and increase awareness of extreme poverty. I thought long and hard about joining this project, but eventually decided that considering how crazy I get when I’m deprived of food, sending a hungry, grumpy and jittery Cat out into the world wouldn’t really be a kindness to anyone. I feel incredibly grateful to be able to make this choice when so many have it forced upon them. So instead my kindness is to donate money to my friend Renee Carr who is not only participating in the challenge but also helped get the campaign up and running.
And it certainly seems to be a great success so far. Yesterday I overheard some handymen talking about how hungry they were on the challenge. I decided to put a bunch of coins in a nearby vending machine and then told them to go and check it as I thought it might be broken. I was intending to leave before they found the money but they were too quick and one of them very kindly called to me to say it was working and I had left money in it. I told him it was a bonus for being brave enough to Live Below the Line. He seemed very pleasantly surprised about that. I have also given money to every homeless person I have encountered, and am helping to organise a group of people to get together and give food to homeless one day soon.
Whether or not you are able to participate or donate to this cause, its a good week to realise how lucky we are to have homes, clean water, healthy bodies, an abundance of food and all the other amazing things that come with a life above the line. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could pull those 1.4 billion people up here in our lifetime too?