My morning coffee…and my conscience

So, my morning coffee and I have had a running date for a couple of years now. Strangely, I was able to make it through undergrad, med school, and then part of residency before I allowed myself to even take a sip. Residency got me! 32 hour shifts every third day…wait how long??? Yep, work hour restrictions have improved things slightly, but when you’re on an intense surgical rotation, sleep is seen as a luxury rather than a necessity-just a little bit of the craziness that a life in medicine brings. I couldn’t handle the sleep deprivation alone, and so caffeine became my drug of choice. I haven’t looked back since, except when I was pregnant and nursing.

I haven’t looked back, but my wallet has definitely felt the hit from my daily tall, soy, 1/2 caff, 1/2 pump hazelnut latte from Starbucks. At almost $5 a cup, this frequent treat does tend to prick at my conscience just a little. Do I really even need the caffeine it affords? Or, is it simply a habit that I’ve grown to crave.Cup Of Espresso With Coffee Beans

As I was thumbing through a random stack of papers thrown in a pile and left to be sorted some time in the future, I came across an old speech that I had written for a public speaking class while I was a grad student at Johns Hopkins. Reading through my thoughts from several years back reminded me that sipping a cup of water in the morning might not only be healthier for me, but it might also be a way for me to make a difference with my $5. Just for fun I thought I would share it with you.

“As the truck bounced to a stop, the stench of rotting waste mixed with human sewage overwhelmed my sensitive nose. After several failed attempts to disguise my disgust, I was relieved to see that everyone else in the truck had wrinkled noses and putrid expressions. Forgetting that the smell was coming from outside the vehicle, I wiggled my arm toward the rusty window latch expecting to improve the situation with some ventilation. As soon as the window budged open, small, dirty fingers shot through the crack. It was only then that I looked through the smudged glass to see equally dirty faces of children no older than nine or ten grinning at me with cracked teeth. Beyond the grins stood heaps of trash, heaps of trash that they called home.

Although this story was taken from my personal experience in Honduras, mirror images of this example of poverty exist across the globe. Almost 1/2 of the world’s population live on less than $2.50 a day. This level of poverty leads to hunger, disease, inequality, and even death. According to the United Nations, 25,000 people die each day from hunger and hunger related diseases. The majority of these deaths are in children-children who don’t know what it feels like to eat three meals a day, let alone one. Can you imagine? With weakened bodies due to malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, these children are vulnerable…vulnerable to infections and disease.

The statistics are endless. One out of every two children in the world is currently living in poverty. That means 1 billion children. Over half a million children don’t have a true home. 400 million children lack access to clean water and a quarter of a million children do not have access to health care.Unknown homeless kid sitting on the street

When living to the age of five years old becomes and accomplishment, shouldn’t we all start asking questions? The question NOW is….WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT THE PROBLEM? It would be easy to point the finger at government, greedy corporations, tyrannical leaders…but what would happen if we pointed the finger back at ourselves?

Each one of us has the ability to make a difference in the life of an impoverished child. A nutritious meal only costs 25 cents in many developing countries. Compare that with the cost of your (and my) morning coffee. All I have to do is cut out the pump of hazelnut in my latte each day to pay for a meal for a child. So, I’m not saying that we need to give up the luxuries that we are privileged to have. All that I’m saying is that maybe we should be more aware of the world around us and the suffering in it. Maybe that awareness will motivate us to care a little more…give a little more…and make a bigger difference so that the wishes of 1 billion children can make it beyond their 5th birthday.”

This isn’t meant to be an infomercial for any non-profit, but just a friendly reminder about how much potential there is for us to make a difference in the lives of others. Tomorrow marks day 7 of my caffeine fast. It’s actually been a lot easier than I expected. I’m not missing my daily caffeine, and if I choose to use my money in a more altruistic way, 20 children won’t have to miss a meal each day. Anyone else want interested in switching to water with me?