Thursday, March 03, 2005

The power of pennies: At what age should you start to care?


Image Hosted by

David wants to save the world. I feel blessed to have met some great teenagers.

Colleges and universities today offer majors in International Relations and International Business for teenagers like David who have a deep commitment to world peace and global prosperity.

When I was a kid, I barely knew there was a world outside my city and state.

My Sunday school teacher Evangeline Reed told us how we could help hungry children in China. That caught my attention. I couldn't imagine going to bed hungry. She described the basic needs of people in provinces whose names I could not pronounce. Miss Reed assured us we could help them.

All my friends collected pennies. We put them into small paper boxes that were shaped like a church. Our pennies bought food for children whose images are etched in my mind to this day. They had big bellies, no shoes, and sullen faces. Someone else in the church told me missionaries were also assisting with their more complex needs like jobs, hospitals, and schools.

Miss Reed expanded the geographic distance of what I thought was meant by "helping others." It was a Max Weber approach to global prosperity through economic development. Missionaries were helping abroad with moneys donated by the American working class.

I loved hearing Miss Reed talk about her missionary work in China. I didn’t know any women doctors, legislators, or business executives. Perhaps my youthful enthusiam engrandized Miss Reed's global influence. But I was sure that this woman was moving mountains in China. I was proud of her, and hopeful for my own life’s meaningfulness.

My grandmother and aunt told me about the work of Willis and Ann McGill, their church’s missionaries in Egypt. I looked in a bound atlas and found it was a half a world away from Miss Reed's China. The people looked different and the dry terrain in Egypt was the color of peanut shells.

The McGills served in Egypt from 1937-1977. When they came back to Pennsylvania once a year to visit their sponsoring church, the McGills took turns staying in the homes of parishioners. My relatives heard details of their work in North Africa when they stayed in my grandparents home, and from their testimony in church. Everyone was captivated and sympathetic. The McGills brought out the best in us. They blessed us with the opportunity to help strangers a half a world away.

The McGill’s described village housing and churches with dirt floors. Children walked without shoes. Mothers were taught sanitary food preparation to avoid disease. The infant mortality rate was high. Mothers were told to keep flies from congregating in their babies' eyes. Fathers were jobless.

These were powerful images to a faithful group who proclaimed that every human being on earth had rights, dignity, and value. It begged the definition of the word "dignity." How could these people function without an opportunity to work to provide basic needs for their families?

The origins of economic malaise in some countries are complex. But it always results in a loss of life and suffering. I could only hope my Sunday School class' boxes of pennies gave them hope. What were their hopeful dreams? Probably the same as everyones' - peace and prosperity.

Advancing the ideals of liberty and prosperity was the notion that founded America. All peoples want self-determination. Schooling is key to self-reliance. A caring global community has often stepped in to do the quiet work of teaching people to read and write.

Davida Finney, the daughter of a missionary in Egypt started a literacy movement. The Christian and Arabic children formed friendships through her "rules." She paired the children and imposed a "learn one – teach one" requirement. All lessons were taught in Arabic. And they all got along. Wonderful.

Missionaries and secular human rights workers are in hundreds of countries today helping to improve people’s health and to teach basic skills. We're a generous people who support them with online donations. Children still collect pennies.

Perhaps our heartfelt generosity to the Egptians helped squelch simmering resentment by parents who painfully put their hungry children to bed at night. Maybe our humanity touched the angry heart of a would be terrorist.

Missionary stories from my childhood may have shaped my jubilation at hearing that Iraqi and Afghani women can go to school and hold elective office in their newly democratized countries. Now they have the option to build a robust economy to help secure their own future and to contribute to the interdependent global economy. A hopeful path to joining the 21st century.

Americans have a rich history of helping people in developing countries. Teen volunteers, church groups, USAid, Non Government Organizations, and corporate remainder donation programs have improved millions of lives.

I regret that Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 terrorists, was not touched by Willis & Ann McGill, Davina Finney, or my young friend David. Had they touched his heart with hope, perhaps our tragic history would not have been.

Literate self-reliant people free from tyranny and poverty are less likely to be recruited by totalitarian dictators to perform terrorist acts.

We at Lead Our Leaders are going to bring freedom and prosperity to the world one person at a time. Empowered people can form an enlightened critical mass to direct our elected leaders to solve the problems critical to our survival. Raise you hands – vote now!


World Vision - An organization supporting faith based health and economic development abroad.

Americares - Provides food and basic needs abroad.

What websites do you recommend for organizations that help the needy abroad?

Have you helped people abroad? Please share a personal empowering experience that will inspire us to do the same.

I wish you could read to me as you frequently have done after I sit down to sewing. Abigail Fillmore, 19 January 1830.