The Danger of Mixing Wealth With America’s “Me” Mentality

Photo credit: 401(k) 2012/flickr. Use does not represent endorsement by the photographer.

“I want everybody in America to be rich,” was the answer given by Mitt Romney during the GOP Presidential debates in 2011. This is the same line that Presidential candidate John McCain dropped on us in 2008. If you are unable to locate the geyser of cash, then you must not be using the Work Harder Treasure Map, or so we were told by Paul Ryan during his speech at last week’s GOP convention. These men are smart enough to know that wealth is not an ever-flowing fountain from which everyone can drink to their heart’s content, because in the most simplistic terms, currency, resources, and goods are finite. But this beloved tale isn’t concerned with the facts, and it’s not limited to the GOP.

America’s me-centric worldview is growing exponentially thanks to a blend of post-9/11 anxiety, economic uncertainty, the doldrums of postmodernity, and unbridled capitalism. As this continues, the mainstream mindset is starting to resemble those green alien squeeze toys in ‘Toy Story,’ caught staring upwards with a punch-drunk gaze, waiting for the arcade machine’s claw to pluck us out of the group, so that we might leave behind the mundane others as we’re whisked off to our own personal paradise. Our politics and religion become customized vehicles for legitimizing a preoccupation of the self, all at a great cost to ourselves and the community around us.

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Poverty Tourism is Bad. Idle Opinions Are Worse.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ebright | The Broken Telegraph

A discussion has erupted on the internet about the dangers of poverty tourism. The critics argue that we really only make ourselves feel better about America’s disproportionate privilege while glossing over the complex issues of global poverty by visiting struggling countries for a bit of brief outreach. All of this broader talk is happening as my wife Lauren, her boss Matthew and I prepare to travel to Cambodia next week for 10 days in an effort to offer some support in that country.

There is definitely something legitimate to the concerns that have been raised about poverty tourism, but I would argue that focusing on such concerns is far more damaging than any misguided altruism. Here’s why.

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Interview with Author Richard Dahlstrom: On Economic Survival, Evangelism, and the Crushing Nature of Adversarial Consumerism

Photo Credit: Ian Ebright | The Broken Telegraph

As our conversation continues, I’m realizing that this idea of intentional living is not just a bunch of words for author Richard Dahlstrom. He seems to be enjoying the moment rather than trying to rush through it. The office we are sitting in is a loft with the usual computer and bookshelf. But there’s also candles burning on top of the space heater, and a pretty impressive climbing wall that he’s made out of a corner of the office complete with climbing holds, carabiners, and what looks like a meditative prayer sheet that’s been tacked halfway up the incline. On the other side of the stairs is a flat, carpeted cubby area that he calls the prayer space, and the books over there have been left open. I can’t find anything in the entire area that has been placed for the sake of appearance.

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Living on Two Dollars a Day During Lent: Simplicity in the Burbs

Photo Credit: flickr/kimili

The following is a post written by my friend Kurt Willems of The Pangea Blog.

I am picky.

I hate most foods that could be considered healthy.

In college, I ate Panda Express (Chinese fast food) for dinner almost every night and supplemented other meals with burgers and pizza.

As a child, I would sit at my Grandpa’s dinner table for hours because I refused to eat my veggies. My most consumed meal during childhood: cereal.  Count Chocula was not just breakfast, but sometimes dinner.  And if I ran out of milk, no problem… water.

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Inside Cambodia PART II: A Population In Poverty

Poverty in Cambodia

Photo Credit: Lauren Ebright | The Broken Telegraph

by Guest Contributor Lauren Ebright

 In 2006 a community of people living in a suburb of Phnom Penh were uprooted by force and moved to a resettlement area now known as Andong. Over two years later, this village still does not have clean water, hospitals or electricity.  Through the connections we made in the country, we were given the opportunity to visit Andong and meet a man named Abraham who has taken this community on as his personal mission. Abraham has built the village’s only school and church from his family’s own money. He has also worked to build new homes for the people of Andong (their original houses, only three years old, have begun to fall apart). Matthew and I were excited to meet Abraham and to see a place more rural than Phnom Penh. I had heard that Andong was a “slum,” but I had imagined it would look similar to some parts of the city. I found out that Phnom Penh with all its poverty and chaos was modern and sophisticated by comparison.

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Homelessness and Outreach…In Steps

I am not an expert on homelessness by any stretch of the imagination. I first lowered one hesitant toe into these waters a few years back while working to serve the poor and homeless at a once-a-week community dinner at a nearby church. My friend joined me after a few times and we both developed a modest sense of satisfaction by directly serving those in a season of struggle. But it wasn’t too long before my patience began to wear out, and I became frustrated by the familiar faces because I thought these people weren’t making progress as fast as they should. I wondered if I was just enabling a bunch of freeloaders and addicts. My friend and I convinced each other that we were doing exactly that, and so we broke free of what started to feel like an obligation.

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Inside Cambodia PART I: Life After Prostitution

by Guest Contributor Lauren Ebright

This past May I embarked on my first trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia with my boss and friend Matthew Fairfax. Matthew owns James Alan Salon- the neighborhood salon I work at as a hairdresser in Shoreline, Washington. About eight months ago an idea was hatched. Matthew had a dream of starting the James Alan Salon Foundation to benefit our local area; he had no idea at the time how far the dream would reach. Through an amazing client of ours Matthew came to know of the desperate reality of human trafficking (primarily for the sex industry) in Cambodia. Separately, I had already began researching more ways I could get involved in combating the very same issue, coincidentally in the very same country. One beautiful day in October our minds came together and we set into motion what would become the Justice and Soul Project. Our goal is to create a hairdressing program for rescued women that are close to being ready to re-enter society after a life of sexual slavery. Slavery can come in many forms, the first is obvious; another form is born out of hopeless economic conditions. We want to give them a skill, a trade that can help support them in a country that is unwilling to. We had no idea what was ahead of us. We took a leap on May 12th and some fourteen hours later touched down in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

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Fighting Global Poverty Through Awareness and… Faithful Travel?

Talking about global poverty is like hitting many people’s snooze button. Depending on the messenger, the topic can quickly become vague, wordy, overwhelming or more like an outlet for self-importance. But the facts on the ground aren’t changing. 2 billion people live on just $2 dollars a day, and another billion live each day on $1 dollar. Meanwhile, it costs me about three times that just to get a cheap lunch. It’s almost shocking to realize how little we need to sacrifice in order to make a huge difference.

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