Did you know 2019 was the best year ever? At least that’s what New York Times’ opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof says. In the course of human history 2019 is the year during which children were least likely to die, the fewest people ever are illiterate, and horrible diseases (leprosy, polio, AIDS, etc.) are at their lowest ebb. Also, less people than ever are living in extreme poverty. As recently as 1981 42% of the world’s population was living on less than $2 per day. That number is now under 10%.
This really is great news! Kristof suggests a different spin on news’ story headlines such as “170,000 Moved Out of Extreme Poverty Yesterday,” or “200,000 Got Piped Water for the First Time.” It’s a little hard to wrap my mind around these being real, daily numbers but they are.
We often see the numbers stated negatively; for example, “Millions Still Live in Extreme Poverty without Running Water” but stating it the other way, emphasizing the progress, seems a lot more hopeful.
One recent change in a statistic I regularly see is this: 1 in 11 people in the U.S. is at risk of food insecurity. This changed from 1 in 10 sometime last year. For children it changed from 1 in 5 to 1 in 6. This is also great news! Food assistance works.
Here’s another happy headline: “Stepping Stones distributed almost 1 Million Pounds of Food in 2019” through the food pantry and its programs—Project SAM weekend kids’ meal bags, senior boxes, pop-up pantries in rural communities, etc. That means that thousands of people here in Dunn County ate better and are healthier than they would have been otherwise.
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But, as we know, there are still hungry people. There’s still poverty and disease, homelessness and domestic violence, war and global warming. Kristof notes that while there are still a lot of things to be concerned about, pessimism about the state of the world can be paralyzing rather than empowering. It can leave us feeling hopeless and helpless. So he says, “Let’s interrupt our gloom for a nanosecond” to celebrate the good.
Over the holidays at Stepping Stones we’re overwhelmed by the outpouring of care and compassion for people in need in our community. Stepping Stones receives almost 40% of total annual contributions in the month of December. More great news: we ended the year in the black thanks to the many people who gave so generously!
Many groups also do holiday food drives, have mitten trees, collect items for our shelters, and more. It helps SO much. Yes, some of our neighbors are still hungry and homeless but fewer than previously. So let’s interrupt our gloom! I love this idea. We can go back to being gloomy later or tomorrow or next week if we must. Being an Eeyore kind of person I know that’s bound to happen. But, just for now, this moment, take heart because there is forward movement for the human race!
Katherine Dutton is the executive director of Stepping Stones of Dunn County. She can be reached at email@example.com