"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals." — Martin Luther King, Jr.
As president of ChildFund, sometimes when I talk with people about the 1 billion children living in poverty globally, I see an uninterested shadow cross their face. It’s not their issue; their concerns lie closer to home.
When I say that 6.6 million children died before their 5th birthday in 2012, though, I can tell the pictures of their own much-loved children or grandchildren flash before their eyes. I imagine they say a quick prayer of thanks for the lives their loved ones live – and then move on with their own busy lives. When I tell someone that each year 14 million girls are forced to marry before their 18th birthday, or tens of thousands are forced into female genital cutting or child prostitution, I see their discomfort level rise — accompanied by a desire to look toward less painful subjects.
One of many “dedicated individuals” helping children in the Philippines. Photo by Jobeth Jerao.
I understand — and support — that individuals can be passionate and dedicated to the many other problems that plague our world and our neighborhoods. Having been a working mother my whole career, I can fully appreciate that people’s lives are way too busy, and that juggling the responsibilities of home and work can often leave energy for little else. And who wouldn’t want to turn away from things that cause us pain? Our lives can seem short on joy and happiness.
These things I can accept. But what I have a hard time accepting is that many people believe the world is made to be unjust and/or the problems these children face are too big, too far away and too complex for them — individually — to do anything about it anyway. So they choose to do nothing.
MLK Jr. had it right. Human progress is not inevitable, nor is it inevitable that millions of children must continue to suffer. Many steps have been taken in the last 25 years to improve the lives of children — the rate of children dying before their 5th birthday has been cut nearly in half since 1990. That happened because of the “tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Those many dedicated individuals include the more than 350,000 people here at home who support the work of ChildFund in the 30 countries where we work to improve the lives of children.
So, as we celebrate the life and gifts of Martin Luther King, Jr., throw away any beliefs you might have held that nothing can be done to help children living in poverty. Become a “dedicated individual” by taking an interest in your fellow humans, especially children.
You can visit our website for some information, or talk to your friends, neighbors or family who might already be one of those dedicated believers — and learn how they help.