This is a repost of an article I wrote for Guinea Pigging Green.
I just finished reading A Path Appears by Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof. Their book is a smart, well-researched guide to some of the major problems the world faces in terms of issues like health, education and violence, as well as how we can best help others both with our money and our time. I’m still processing everything I learned from it, but I recommend it highly.
The book is really making me think about how I can help more effectively both financially and in person. It’s also enlightening me about what the problems really are, and the sometimes-surprising best ways to help others. Long story short: it’s rocking my world and I’ve gotten so many new ideas about how to help more going forward.
One quote that stood out to me was: “Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.” Hope is not, either. Safety is not. Justice is not.
It’s really hard to learn about how some of the most preventable or cheaply curable health conditions keep so many children out of school because they can’t afford the treatment. It’s hard to read about fathers drinking away two thirds of their family’s income while their children starve or can’t afford to go to school. It’s hard to learn about all the horrifying trafficking that occurs worldwide and even at home.
But this quote reminds me of the humanity, passion and skills that exist worldwide. People don’t only need our money, they also need hope and jobs and more opportunities to learn and grow and develop to their full potential.
I think sometimes we in developed countries have this misconception that our individual success is a product of our work ethic and talent and drive to succeed. And while that’s partially true, it’s important to recognize just how much of our success in life is a product of where we were lucky enough to be born. We should never assume that people who did not have the same luck are stupider or less talented or less hard-working just because they may seem less “successful” by our standards.
I don’t know yet what the best way to help is and I’m thinking about it a lot. But more and more lately I’ve been feeling a pull to give where and what I can, and this book is making the path towards that goal a bit clearer. It’s actually so inspiring and exciting! As I continue to think about these ideas, I want to keep this quote in the front of my mind: the idea that the most important thing we can do is spread and create opportunities for talented, capable people worldwide to spread their own wings.