Wednesday, October 15, 2008

One Person at a Time

"Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings." Nelson Mandela

Every now and again, I pull out my clay jar. I've been working on it for most of my life, and I suspect it'll never be done. I started it when I was a child. Since then, my jar has undergone many changes. Thanks to many hours of painstaking, backbreaking work, my clay jar has morphed from a tiny lumpen mass of brown goop to a breathtaking vision of loveliness.

I've shaped, molded, and finally perfected my jar. Or at least, my vision of it is clear and unobstructed. Now, as I stand back and survey my creation, my fingers get itchy again. Scratching the surface isn't good enough. I need to get into the corners and scour deep within it. After all, this is my Dream Jar Secret Hiding Place. Kind of like the jars you keep in your kitchen that hide money or important documents. Only, this jar contains my Big Dream.

In an earlier post, I talked about my penchant for performing in front of my bedroom mirror. But, like my imaginary tiny lump of clay, the dream of being a stage performer was really the first blush of a much grander fantasy. When it comes right down to it, all of us just want to do something of substance. We want to make a difference in the world.

Well, today is Blog Action Day - a day when over 7,000 bloggers will unite to "stand up against poverty," so to speak. It's an initiative to "change the conversation." To change the tired voice within that whispers in one's ear, "Me? What can one person possibly do to change the world?"

On October 17-19, 2008, Stand Up Against Poverty - International Day for the Eradication of Poverty will be in full swing. "This year, the main focus of Stand Up is Take Action, to ensure governments worldwide hear our demands to end poverty and inequality. Last year, more than 76,000 Canadians took part in more than 500 Stand Up events across the country. They were part of a mobilization against poverty that had more than 43 million participants worldwide."

I read that "a number of surveys have found that children at the lower end of the socio-economic scale had poorer health and developmental outcomes than children in the middle, and that children at the top of the socio-economic scale had better results still." In developing countries, "98% of children with disabilities receive no education, and 26 million people with an intellectual disability live on less than $1 a day."

Sometimes our knee-jerk reaction is to pull back in horror. "It's too big...too pervasive...so what in the world will it matter if one person performs one action?" I can hear my own voice whimpering in the dark, the covers pulled over my head.

"Simplify, simplify," said Thoreau. "One step, one action, today, is all it takes!" What is the one step, one action, I could begin putting into motion? If I have a passion for children - specifically special needs children - but I'm overwhelmed, confused, frozen in place by too much information, maybe I could join an organization that's focused on helping to change attitudes, to educate, and positively improve, mainstream social attitudes. Group lobbying, or sending out e-mails, faxes, letters to the government. Give blood, or organize a free lunch/food distribution. Many organizations have campaigns that focus on making poverty history. The Stand Up Against Poverty website has a list of "actions/activities aimed at development/welfare; petitions and communications/popular education; and mass action/popular mobilization/dissent."

As for me, my clay jar is only half full, I realize. I still have a long way to go, and time is running out. Today, though, I can take one step. It's time to "take action to end poverty and inequality, one person, one step, one heart, at a time."

(See also Poverty in Canada: The New Reality Facing Canadians
Dawn Ontario Disabled Women's Network Ontario
Grow Up Free from Poverty



This post is a part of Blog Action Day '08 - Poverty

8 comments:

Bill from Sudbury said...

Mainstream persons seem to be generally unaware, or worse uncaring, of our society’s unconscionably unfair treatment of its more or less defenceless fellow citizens with Down syndrome, Autism, etc.

I noticed that the ideal-way.ca website asks, under “Did You Know, … that a disproportionate number of impoverished persons are intellectually disabled ... and, a disproportionate number of persons with intellectual disability are impoverished?”

Kudos to Ideal-Way, and this ideal blog, for consistently highlighting the plight of persons with D.S., Autism, etc. as an urgent ‘wake-up’ call to the rest of us.

papercages said...

What a beautiful post. Certainly very thought provoking.

John said...

John in Chicago said...
Hello Maureen, I read your entry on another blogsite and posted the below comment.

I love what you had to say about poverty. Individually, we can make a difference.

As Helen Keller once said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

Fantastically written by the way. Also visited Ideal-Way.ca website and found it to be very inspirational. Will pass it on to a colleague friend of mine.

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, all, for your kind words. Bill, thank you for adding the quote from the Ideal-Way site. Let's join Inclusion International, and many other organizations, in working toward eradicating extreme poverty for people with disabilities and their Families. By uniting together 'behind a common purpose and programme of action,' "we can make a difference"!

Thank you, papercages, for your kind feedback!

John, thanks for visiting the Ideal-Way site. We have plans to add more features to it, including information about Andrew Hamilton's upcoming canoe trip, slated for sometime in the spring. He will be retracing Tom Thomson's canoe trip in Algonquin Park in the early 1900s. If you're interested in reading more about Tom Thomson's life, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Thomson.

simona said...

Thanks so much to this blog and ideal-way for focusing attention on the generally poorer education of persons with special needs.

Just like the rest of us, special needs persons will rise, or sink, to the level of expectations in their learning environment. They deserve better than what they get.

Anonymous said...

Once again, we focus on poverty and the intellectually disabled, but what is really being done for these individuals?? Organizations such as Ideal-Way and their counterparts can only do so much. Where do our elected government officials stand on this subject? What is it going to take before they realize we have a crisis in this country, whether it be services for families of persons with autism or decent housing for the older intellectually disabled whose parents are aging and can no longer take care of them at home?? Do you know that some have actually been put into the same nursing home as their parent because there was no where else for them!!! This is a shame and a sin before God!!! Something must be done to rectify a system that has been broken and is in dire need of fixing. If we cannot take care of those who cannot take care of themselves then we, as human beings, have failed God.

Maureen Lee said...

Simona, I agree with you. Instead of trying to force the intellectually disabled into a mold that we think best fits mainstream society, wouldn't it make sense to celebrate the gifts they bring to the table?

You're absolutely right, anonymous. Nonprofit organizations can only do so much, but by speaking out against the current conditions that a great number of the intellectually disabled community are forced to live in, group lobbying, etc., attitudes will eventually change. Keep the faith, as the founder of Ideal-Way repeatedly reminds all of us!

Don Yeo said...

How appropriately wonderful that Jenn Lee and Pau Abad have accepted “handing over the reins of Just Show Up” from Maureen Lee!

Each of these dedicated Ideal-Way volunteers meets the qualifying criteria: “exceptionally talented”. The synergy from their individually different backgrounds and perspectives will surely deserve continuing widespread interest in this great blog. I can hardly wait.

Thank you, kind ladies, for bringing an inspiring Christmas gift to Ideal-Way, its clients, and to loyal followers of “Just Show Up”. Carpe diem.

Don Yeo, CEO
Ideal-Way.ca

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