Most of us, living in our leafy rich suburbs would probably define poverty in terms of “lack of” – a lack of money, a lack of housing, a lack of jobs etc. Claudio Oliver, a poverty activist in Brazil, disputes this notion. He asks those who are “not poor”, what if one day you received the news that you had lost all your money, savings, house, job, etc? What if one day everything was taken from you, and you found yourself basically homeless? And then he asks, how much time would it take to find something to eat… a place to sleep… some kind of work? Most of us, through our friendships with others, could find something to eat in a matter of minutes; a place to sleep in a matter of hours; and some kind of work in a matter of weeks.
And so, Claudio Oliver argues that lack of friendship is the key factor in defining poverty. We give billions to the poor, but no-one has been transformed by giving away just money. What we, the rich really need to give away, is ourselves and our friendship with all the associated risk and complication which that would involve. This is the most important thing that the rich can do for the poor – on a global as well as a local scale. Poverty, Friendship and what it means to be Human