Diamonds abound among the poor if you search for them

A friend of mine told me a story about a man she found herself sitting next to at an elegant party in an elegant home in the vicinity of San José. The gentleman was probably in his 30s and (my friend noted) had beautiful brown eyes. She asked him about himself. She is a very good listener.

He started by saying, “I love Costa Rica.” He went on to say that he had grown up on the west coast in a poor family. His father picked fruit for a large fruit company, but one day just disappeared, so he and his siblings were raised by his mother. However, he had access to an education, and being bright, he managed to secure becas (scholarships) to further schooling in San José and then to a university in Costa Rica. The university he attended, he said, may not have been the best in the world, but a student can learn as much as he wants and attempts to learn. (I am reminded of my thoughts the other day that much to my surprise some of the happiest times I remember were spent in the stacks in the library at San Jose State in California. I came across so many fascinating books when I was researching a subject I neither needed or wanted for the latest assignment.)

He said when he was young he never dreamed of owning a car. He dreamt of having enough money to ride the bus to visit his family. He worked hard, then went on to study law, graduated, and is now a successful lawyer. That, he said, can still happen in Costa Rica. Social mobility is a reality here.

Most democratic countries strive for this mobility. What is needed from the individual is intelligence, (and there are different kinds of intelligence), a talent, or useful skill, imagination and drive to be the best they can be at what they want to do. What is needed from the community (in most cases, the government and private sectors working together) is the opportunity to get an education that will hone or expand that talent or skill.

Unfortunately, in many countries, the money necessary to make this possible is often aimed at helping the poor just stay alive, not prosper, and talent and skills are wasted. Dreams are lost or frustrated and turned into antisocial goals.

Both of the major parties in the United States are fighting over who cares most about the middle class and helping them prosper. By definition, the middle class is doing quite well, is comfortable, if you will, and maintaining their values. Probably, however, both parties are talking about what I once labeled, “the nouveau poor.” Those in the middle class who have fallen on hard times. It seems easier to help them regain their position in society than to start from scratch, so to speak.

I suggest that both parties (and all countries) take a second and careful look at the poor and look for the diamonds there. There are so many to find.

Nonprofit organizations and individuals dedicated to helping the poor in the countries where there are so many have found that clean water, better living conditions medical services, and educational opportunities have not just helped them stay alive but uncovered the talented and skillful gems among them who can realize their dreams and help their families prosper. And, if I do say so myself, (as we say when we say so ourselves), women seem to be the most precious of the diamonds in the rough because as has been discovered, giving a helping hand to a woman, especially a mother, helps not just her, but her family and her community.

This last statement makes it even more unbelievable that a group of men who adhere to some skewed fundamental religion should be so fearful of women that they would shoot a 14-year-old girl who just wants an education. Freedom is, after all, the springboard for everyone’s dream, isn’t it?

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