October 15 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty

Today marks the second annual Blog Action Day.  While last year was about how to live a bit greener, this year’s theme is “poverty”.

When I first heard what the theme was, I struggled with it.  While I have lived at a lower income (think coupon clipping), I certainly have never been at the poverty level.  How could I possibly wrap my brain around something this complex and come up with a post that would do such a weighty subject the justice it deserves?  I went to my mother and asked her advice, and she said four words to me that turned on the light bulb for me: “Think about your grandfather.”

Dr. Lloyd Antonel, D.O. was one of your old time doctors.  Sure he could have made a lot of money over his career, but he was a doctor for the sake of being a doctor.  Long before I was born he was doing things that may sound insane now, but they proved how he was really there to help people.  One of the stories about him that is from my mother’s childhood is when someone in their neighborhood got injured and they immediately rushed the person to my grandfather not knowing what else to do.  He threw everything off the kitchen table and performed surgery right there in front of his children.  Today he would probably be hit with malpractice for not operating in a sterile environment, but back then he did what he had to do.

My grandfather’s legacy of helping those who were less fortunate than himself goes way back, and he was the type of doctor that if you couldn’t pay him, you couldn’t pay him, or he would take payment in whatever you felt like you could afford.  He was once paid in chickens.  Another time he was paid in the form of a spider monkey… no, I am not kidding.  (The monkey hated my grandfather and would climb the fig tree in front of his office and throw figs at him… no one ever knew why as my grandfather had never hurt the monkey in any way)

As a child he had lived through hard times and he knew what it was like to go without food.  As he made his way through his career, and had made some money… and not more animals, he would donate food to shelters.  If he needed 10 pounds of onions he would buy 100 and donate the extra 90 to a soup kitchen.  One of his favorite places to donate to was the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix.  When he decided to “retire” from private practice he was out of work a full hour before St. Vincents snapped him to get their clinic into shape.

While this was a paid position he worked tirelessly and far more than they paid him for to help those he could.  He did get the clinic in shape, and as he had been a pharamicist before he was a doctor, he figured out how to build them a full pharmacy with donations of sample medications from other doctors around the city.  He worked on this for approximately 8 years before he simply couldn’t do it any more.

What does this have to do with poverty?  Well, it shows you that it isn’t always about money, but offering the talents and services you have in your personal arsenal.  Are you a doctor?  Volunteer at a clinic.  A lawyer?  There are numerous centers for free legal aid.  Plumber?  Help out a soup kitchen with their plumbing needs or those of the people who come in.  There is an endless amount of things any help center could use, and don’t think you won’t get something out of it.  My grandfather thrived in doing this, and sometimes he brought home as much food as he took to them due to them getting more food than they could handle.  (I swear that man’s fridge was always stocked to the top with convenience store sandwiches.)

There is no doubt that finances are tight for many Americans, but have you ever thought about just how much your time and talents are worth to those with less than you?

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