I spent the better part of a morning pondering a question on the Ethiopian farm of Dadhi.
Dadhi is a sturdy but struggling husband and father. His dirt-floored mud hut would fit easily in my garage. His wife's handwoven baskets decorate his walls. Straw mats are rolled and stored against the sides, awaiting nightfall when all seven family members will sleep on them. Dadhi's five children smile quickly and hug tightly. They don't know how poor they are.
Dadhi does. He earns less than a dollar a day at a nearby farm. He'd work his own land, except a plague took the life of his ox. His only one. With no ox, he can't plow. With no plowed field, he can't sow a crop. If he can't sow a crop, he can't harvest one.
All he needs is an ox.
Dadhi is energetic and industrious. He has mastered a trade and been faithful to his wife. He's committed no crimes. Neighbors respect him. He seems every bit as intelligent as I am, likely more so. He and I share the same aspirations and dreams. I scribbled out a chart, listing our many mutual attributes. We have much in common. Then why the disparity? Why does it take Dadhi a year to earn what I can spend on a sport coat?
Part of the complex answer is this: he was born in the wrong place. He is, as Bono said, "an accident of latitude." A latitude void of unemployment insurance, disability payments, college grants, Social Security, and government supplements. A latitude largely vacant of libraries, vaccinations, clean water, and paved roads. I benefited from each of those. Dadhi has none of them.
In the game of life, many of us who cross home plate do so because we were born on third base. Others aren't even on a team.
You don't have to travel sixteen hours in a plane to find a Dadhi or two. They live in the convalescent home you pass on the way to work, gather at the unemployment office on the corner. They are the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, and the blind.
Some people are poor because they are lazy. They need to get off their duffs. Others, however, are poor because parasites weaken their bodies, because they spend six hours a day collecting water, because rebel armies ravaged their terms, or because AIDS took their parents.
Max Lucado, Outlive Your Life Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010, 103-105.
Image: An accident of latitude.