The Smell of Poverty

At work we’ve got a great charitable foundation, one of the best and perhaps the largest in China, that is helping kids in one of the poorest parts of the nation, Gansu Province. We received some boxes of gifts from some of these sweet kids living in poverty. These thoughtful kids, sent from the midst of poverty, included several boxes of noodles, some shoe inserts and cloth shoes, and some other things. Most of the gifts had one thing in common: the smell of poverty. A strong, almost overwhelming smell, the smell of second-hand tobacco smoke. It infused everything,  so much so that I had to discard much of what they wanted to be accepted and used as gifts.

Those poor kids must live in a shroud of smoke that surely represents one of the biggest and certainly most wasteful expenses those families face. What a terrible way to live. They lack money for decent food, but dad can puff away their meagre earnings all day until even their noodles reek. 

Thank you, tobacco executives everywhere, for helping to fulfill the prophecy of Christ: “the poor you will always have with you.” But also thanks to your help, they won’t be among us for all that long once the lung cancer or other tobacco-induced ailments kick in. Why do we accept these illegitimate, parasitic companies spawning death, pollution, and poverty? Depart!

Author: Jeff Lindsay

7 thoughts on “The Smell of Poverty

  1. Who are the "we" that accept tobacco companies? I think you will find a great many people that think that they do not accept these companies.

    The trouble is that, as we saw with prohibition in the U.S., it's hard (impossible?) to effectively outlaw a substance that has long been used in a culture. Even cracking down on such abuse appears to be an exercise in futility because people that want the stuff will exercise their agency to get it, illegally if need be.

    Even if you could take tobacco away from the poor, it might not improve their condition. Human ingenuity, being what it is, would rapidly replace tobacco with some other destructive and addictive practice.

    Poverty cannot be eliminated from the outside in. When poverty is removed from the individual's heart (i.e. his cherished way of thinking) the problem resolves itself. Any effort that does not change the mind and heart will not ultimately relieve poverty.

  2. Very sad, and true. This is true of the U.S. Poor people spend their money on illegal drugs and cigaretts/alcohol. For many people their priorities are messed up – for example, when I was working in a pharmacy I waited on a customer who was picking up antibiotics for their young child. This customer had alcohol, cigaretts, and candy. This customer was receiving state assistance and the medication was not covered by state insurance. The customer threw a fit and refused to pay for the medicine. We called the doctor to let the doctor know it was not covered by insurance but the doctor wanted that specific antibiotic for the child. The customer paid for the alcohol/cigarettes/candy and left the medication . I have ex family members who have addictive habits, and complain about not having any money, but they always have their alcohol/cigaretts and gamble. Unfortunately when my mother was living she would give these children of hers the money for their bad habits. And buy them food too. And they make good money.

  3. In China it is nearly impossible to avoid the smoke from cigarettes whether it's your family members or the neighbors who spend time in your house, the bus you take or the people at work. I used to smell of smoke from a cigar-smoking colleague in London. Also, the dangers and issues of cigarette smoking are not as well known there.

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