Hope to the Hopeless

I wouldn’t be the first person to suggest being a teenager kinda sucks – and I’m not even someone who had a notably terrible experience. I was smart in a school where that wasn’t the kiss of social death, and I was part of a crowd of artsy/theatrical kids that in no way resembled the cast of Glee. (We neither burst into song when emotions ran high, nor got regularly pelted in the faces with slushies. A win all around, IMO.) Still, there were the usual petty battles, and epic levels of insecurity, enough so that even as I move ever-closer to 40, I have no interest in rolling back the clock for a do-over.

That pushing-40 thing also means I’m old enough to have had it comparatively easy, since I was in my teens when bullying had to be done to your face or through easily-intercepted passed notes. Now, of course, every jackhole with access to the Internet seems to think its his/her birthright to torment people anonymously online. (My massive dislike for online bad behavior could be a post in its own right, no doubt.)

I can’t imagine how much harder being a teen was – and is – for kids who are struggling with issues like sexual and gender identity. As news reports this week show, it can ratchet the usual adolescent bullshit to a tragic level, where one kid (or group of kids) torments another literally to death. I am heartbroken and enraged by these stories, and  dumbfounded that we live in a world where such cruelty and hopelessness exist side by side.

Which is why I am so totally, utterly in love with the idea behind the It Gets Better project. It doesn’t address the cruelty end of the equation, but it speaks volumes to the hopelessness. Started on YouTube by columnist Dan Savage and his partner, it began as one video, from one gay couple, telling these despondent kids that the horrors of their teen years will pass… that they’ll come out, enough of the people they love will understand and accept them, and that they’ll go on to be happy, productive adults.

When I first heard about the project earlier in the week, Dan & Terry’s video had been joined by about a half-dozen others. Today, there are hundreds. Go watch a few. And if you know a kid who is struggling, grab him or her and make them watch, even if they think you’re just a dumb grown-up. Show them that you care, and that you don’t judge, and you just might be the difference they need: Be someone who helps make it better.

$1 per day

In a recent political discussion someone brought in the statistic that American households making $60,000 or less (maybe it was $30,000) give more generously to charity as a portion of their income than any other segment of the population, followed by the super wealthy. I take this as an indictment of those of us in the middle. Are we just too comfortable? Do we think that our words matter more than our deeds and donations?

Then I add to that debate this seemingly prolonged pitty party here in the U.S. with gas at $4/gal., airlines charging for luggage and water, and prices rising on seemingly everything. And I know for some American’s these are very real struggles.

But really. The U.S. poverty rate is equivalent to middle or upper class in parts of the developing world. One Starbucks is four days worth of everything (food, transport, shelter, etc.) to 1/6 of the worlds population.

Which has got me thinking and wanting to challenge myself. What if I, what if everyone reading, tried – really tried – to live on $1 a day for one week. Am I up to the task?

What would it look like? I envision walking, drinking tap water (although it has a cost too), eating rice or potatoes and probably not much else, and I guess I’d need to turn off the AC, the tv, the lights, skip laundry and dishes.

Is it even possible? In Texas everything is so far apart. Houston mass transit is kind of a joke, but even one fare one way on DC Metro exceeds the budget. But forget the car and getting around, even then I am still so far ahead of the game – I have a roof over my head and clothes in the closet. And really, who couldn’t live out of what is in the pantry for a month or more (before rationing).

So don’t think you are off the hook if, like many, your rent/mortgage and/or daily commute costs (or whatever) exceed $1/day. Please consider trying to just eat and drink of $1/day — that alone may be challenge enough!

And if I succeeded in this experiment (in any form), what would I do differently after the fact? What do you think?