Living in an Age of Miracles

One of our favorite games is “Ain’t It Awful”.  A lot of us love to play it.  You know how it goes—you gather around a table for coffee to discuss life or the news and in no time there is a litany of things that hit the table that signal the end of the world as we know it.  Crime, terrorism, politics or whatever.  There is something, apparently, that draws us to seeing and thinking the worst in things and people.  At the end of this game is the general consensus that life is getting worse every day.

Except maybe it really isn’t.  Nicholas Kristof wrote recently that by many important metrics, the year 2016 was the best year in human history.  For instance, he asks us to take the following quiz:  On any given day the number of people worldwide who live in extreme poverty A. Rises by 5,000 because of food shortages, corruption, etc. B. Stays about the same or C. drops by 250,000.  Polls show that 9 out of 10 people believe that extreme poverty gets worse every year.  But according to the World Health Organization, roughly a quarter of a million people rise out of extreme poverty every day.

Or consider this—more than 100 million children’s lives have been saved through vaccinations since 1990.  In 1980 somewhere close to 40% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty.  Today it is only 10%.

There will, of course, be continued poverty in the world.  But strides are being made and we don’t talk about that as much as we should.  While many seem to be traumatized by the events surrounding Washington D.C., things around the world are getting better.  

There are forces at work around the world that are larger than our bipartisan politics. The most important thing happening today will not be a tweet.  What’s more important today is that 18,000 children who would have surely died 20 years ago will survive.

Michael Elliott, who died last year after leading the One Campaign which battles worldwide poverty, used to say that we are living in an age of miracles.  Every life saved from disease and every life lifted from the worst kinds of poverty are testaments to this age of miracles.  I’m personally excited to see how 2017 will be even better than 2016.