Remembering the wonder of the “What IF…” Question

When you live with something for a long time, it stops being exciting, or it stops being shocking, depending on what kind of thing it is.

I’ve been aware of poverty as an issue for about as long as I can remember. I’ve been in and out of the developing world travelling and volunteering with infrequent regularity for the past 15 years, nearly, and for the past two it has been a part of my working life. So the stats in the video above are just stats I live with. They’re a part of the world as I understand it. And while occasionally I go somewhere or see or hear something that makes me feel like I’ve been hit over the head again, a lot of the time, in my life, poverty is a problem you have to chug away at fixing, and you shuffle ever forward, inch by painful, considered inch. You try and hang onto the passion and the outrage – and I am continually in some awe of the people who genuinely do keep it with them, because it is exhausting – but oftentimes it is just life.

Then, on the other side of the equation, I’ve been living with the campaign that’s just been launched for a while. Not as closely as some of my friends, but a bit. And when you do that, you sometimes forget that this is a thing with a lot of potential to touch a lot of people and make a real difference. It can be a bit ‘find time for this meeting and sign off this piece of work, and do we like the name and the logo and will the video work’ – and again, I am a bit in awe of people who retain their hopefulness and positivity about their campaign through all the details and grit of bringing it into the world.

So, I’ll be honest, when IF launched today, I was – despite my determined retweeting – a little bit, “oh, finally, yay.”

But then this evening I read this blog post by someone who got to find out about IF from the outside, and it bopped me on the head a bit.

With the world’s population increasing so rapidly I had assumed until recently that extreme poverty must be on the rise globally, but in the course of researching this piece, I’ve discovered I was wrong. Back in 1990, 43% of the developing world’s population lived on $1.25 or less a day. In 1981 the figure stood at 52%. That’s a massive drop in the last 30 years. There are a whole range of reasons why this number has been dropping, but as I read the figures something that I thought was impossible, suddenly became a possibility. Large scale extreme poverty can potentially be eradicated and within our lifetime… As I look at this possibility of extreme poverty being overcome. I get the strong feeling that God is answering the prayers of myself and others. He’s not doing it through some flashy fireworks show. It’s not His style, but He is doing a miracle in people’s hearts and minds fostering compassion and a desire to radically change things for the better and give thousands of millions of people release from regular hunger and starvation. The more I see this, the more it makes me want to be an answer to my own prayers too.

I’m touched by the enthusiasm for the moment, despite the realisation of the steady chug, and I’m re-realising that one of the things I really like about IF is that it’s asking for some really matter-of-fact things to happen. Yes there’s flash in the presentation and in the buzz – but it’s not a ‘playing with magnesium ribbon in the lab’ flash, it’s the spark that leaps up when a bunch of people come together and bang the rocks together for a really long time. The spark that will catch the kindling (even the slightly damp, yeahyeahthis, kindling, blaze and then, hopefully burn steadily, creating a warmth that will last. What IF we could get the leaders of eight countries to do something amazing…

I’m in.

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