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More Than Good Intentions

African American news from Pasadena - Editorial - solving global povery problemsMy wife has been telling me for years that sometimes my advice to others on subjects, like becoming entrepreneurs, just doesn’t work for every individual. She is constantly reminding me that my solution to unemployment is to open your own business, just doesn’t always work because what works for one may not work for another.

I have had a real problem believing that the entrepreneurship answer is not a universal one. I have a hard head and still believe that if the circumstances are right, entrepreneurship works.  I must admit that a book I ran across recently is causing the foundations of my belief to be shaken.  The book called, “More Than Good Intentions”, talks about how to solve problems of global poverty. One chapter is about the Chinese proverb that says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.” 

These words are magical and the book points out that the words are used to get donors of anti-poverty programs excited because the essence of those words says that it’s better to give a person a hand up rather than a hand-out. Well the book burst my bubble, and once again proved to me that my wife is smarter than me in certain things, even though I tell my children and grandchildren that I know everything. So much for that theory.

The book, “More Than Good Intentions”, reminds the reader that the fishing pole theory can be flawed, if one man hates fish and another is a natural born fisherman. It poses the question, what if you don’t live near a river with fish in it?  You can’t eat the fishing pole.  My wife laughed as I read the parts that posed the query of what if the person you give the fishing pole and gear to has arthritis and can’t bait the hooks, or thinks fishing is boring and can’t cast. Well after 49 years (this month) of marriage to Miss Ruthie, I should know to just listen to her.

For years I have been working on a book called, “If You're so smart why aren’t you rich.”  I had an artist do a cover with the picture of a 1929 era Hobo on it. I have challenged kids when I speak to them to write their own book and answer the question for themselves. The question again is, “If you so smart why aren’t you rich.”  The title comes from an antique picture that my mother gave me after I finished Law school and passed the California State Bar.

When you give that question to kids to write their answer you will be amazed at what they come up with. They will write that they need an education and they need family support and someone to direct them. If you get through this part of the exercise, without tearing up in front of the kids, then you have to tell them to write what they need to cure the problem of why aren’t they rich. They will again say they need family support.  Some will acknowledge that they needed a scholarship and better grades.
It would be interesting to make a game out of the question of why aren’t you rich. On the subject of needs, after you get past the obvious racism and other uncontrollable factors, you might find facts that relate to you, individually.

In the book, “More Than Good Intentions”,  it includes  a statement by a woman who says what she really needs is a way to stop her husband from drinking away the money she earns. Sounds like a Blues song I once heard about the troubles caused when you open up a bottle of whiskey that was just sitting on the shelf minding its own business.

If I were playing such a game, I would add that some people aren’t rich because they make bad choices in friends and they ignore opportunities. As a note the book defines poverty as “a denial of choices and opportunities.” I would modify that and say that sometimes it results from making bad choices and failing to identify and/or ignoring opportunities.  To that end I say to young people and older people for that matter is to “SHOW UP AND PAY ATTENTION”, and don’t count on other people’s good intentions to get ahead.  It takes more than that.

In the end it is up to each of us to show up, pay attention, analyze and pray about what is presented, then make good choices and remember EGBOK (Everything’s going to Be OK)!


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