Some of you know I’m a missionary in Honduras. From time to time we get visitors from the United States and other countries. They come here to help the people here with whatever skills they have available. Some are engineers or know how to build stuff and they come to build for people here. Some are doctors and they come to offer free medical treatment to people here who can’t afford it otherwise. They all have giving hearts and want to share their lives with people less fortunate than themselves. On occasion, however, they are challenged by family members or friends, acquaintances or neighbors about the fact that there are poor people in the United States that could use their help, so why go to a foreign country to do what it is they feel the need or responsibility to do?
Recently I met a dentist who came here to offer free dental care to people suffering with rotten teeth and such. There is no local dentist here, so it is a very much needed service. While eating at a dinner in honor of the team on their last night here, I sat and talked with him and he told me the following story. The story poignantly stressed the difference in the needs here and the needs there, in the United States. I asked him to write it down and send it to me when he got back home and he agreed to do so. So this is kind of a guest post by my new friend, Thomas Gelhaus, D.D.S.
Who Are the Poor?
Written by: Tom Gelhaus, D.D.S.
For the past 20 years I’ve been spending my ‘vacations’ in South and Central America. They’re working vacations….fixing teeth on people who otherwise don’t have access to care. Occassionally I’ve been asked why I do that….why don’t I just help the poor in the United States. (actually I do even more charity work in my own office in north central Wisconsin)
I struggle a bit in answering that question. It really isn’t easy to understand without visiting ‘3rd World‘ countries in person. So I try to explain it in this way…..
My wife and all 4 of my children have accompanied me on many trips. They know first hand what I do and what conditions I encounter. My kids also know about the less fortunate in the United States since they’ve participated in humanitarian efforts here as well.
When President Clinton was in office he made the effort to visit the 3 poorest areas of the United States. Two were Pine Ridge in South Dakota and the Appalachia area. Coincidentally I had children working in both areas that year.
When my daughter returned from her spring break humanitarian mission in Appalachia, I asked her ‘how did it compare to Guatemala?’, where she had been with me twice before. Her answer was that she helped a family who needed house repairs but she said the poor in the U.S. would be among the rich in Guatemala. They had housing (not fancy) but also clean water, food, education, enough clothes etc.….which the Guatemalans did not have. The average person in the world doesn’t have clean water or many of the things we take for granted. In fact the average person in the U.S. is in the top 1 to 3 % of the worlds wealthiest.
We think we are middle class but actually are richer than 99% of others on earth.
I think of the ‘occupy Wallstreet’ movement. Those are really the top 1% doing the protesting….the rich protesting the richer.
I wish I could take everyone in the U.S. with me on a trip…..
- Dentist Salary (celebritynetworth.com)
- Country Profiles: Guatemala (socyberty.com)
- Governor’s Office of Appalachia, Connect Ohio, & Chesapeake Energy Launch Connect Appalachia Broadband Initiative (prweb.com)
- 3 Reasons to Consider Medical Tourism (money.usnews.com)
- $5 Gas is High, But the Price is Much Higher in Many Foreign Countries (ibtimes.com)
- Illegal in America (ucucc.wordpress.com)
- The Takeaway: Appalachia’s Rapidly Rising Aging Population (aarp.org)
- “Stranger with a Camera”: Death and Documentaries in Appalachia (and What It Has to Do with Africa) via John Edwin Mason (documentingappalachia.wordpress.com)
- Guatemala pres: Drug war requires more than arms (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- You want data on inequality? (snohomishobserver.com)
- Ferran Adrià Disapproves of Your Coffee (thedailymeal.com)
- Coal Corporations: Destroying Appalachia (pineconemary.wordpress.com)
- The Ideology, Education, And Region Of The Top One Percent (thinkprogress.org)
- Foreign Aid and Violence in Honduras – Real Solutions (trutherator.wordpress.com)
- Letters: U.S. Policy on Honduras: Views of Two Diplomats (nytimes.com)