How to make a friend in Uganda. business consultant, NGO worker, former Peace Corps volunteer, activist: searching for sustainable solutions to eradicate extreme poverty

July 6, 2009

How one Banana Saved the World

I have wrestled for the last few years with the idea of how my small, individual acts of compassion, gratitude, and generosity might – with the added strength of others – make our world a bit more just and livable. I have been particularly interested in how my actions might affect the one billion people who currently live on less than $1 a day. While in business school I studied these concepts under the tutelage of Professors William Tiga Tita, Dennis Shaughnessy, and Christopher Robertson. I also read a lot of books. Then, 10 months ago I got together with some like-minded individuals to figure out how the concepts fit into our particular faith construct. We wrestled with these issues together for 12 weeks. To start to put some ideas into practice, in January I joined the Fair Trade Boston campaign. More about that later. First, let me tell you about how one extraordinary banana taught me a valuable lesson.

I recently moved to Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is a particularly metropolitan section of town, with a unique collection of shops ranging from Ten Thousand Villages to Supreme Liquors to Dunkin’ Donuts . One of the grocery stores in the neighborhood is a community-owned shop called Harvest. I tend to do most of my shopping there. On a particular shopping trip a week or two ago, I stopped by the produce section and noticed that there were Fair Trade certified bananas for sale. I picked up a bunch since I’ve learned that the vendor, Oke, pays a premium to ensure that farmers in Central America are paid a fair price. As a bonus, I noted that the bananas are organically produced so that neither the banana nor the farmer is sprayed with toxic chemicals. After checking out, I strutted down Mass Avenue, pleased that I had done the right thing. I was in such good spirits that I threw a few coins in the cup of a man sitting on the street and struck up a conversation about the weather. (It’s a much more important subject for someone who does not have shelter.) As the conversation wound down I realized that I was carrying a bag of groceries and the man I was speaking with might be hungry. I asked if he liked bananas. He said yes. I pulled one off the bunch and handed it to him. He expressed an enormous amount of gratitude. Apparently he had been thinking about purchasing a banana all day – you know for the potassium.

That experience brought something into light. It showed me just how easy it is to recognize a problem and take action. Through one simple purchase and subsequent gift of a banana I was able to make a difference in the lives of people in communities separated by vast distances who ironically experience some of the same problems. No longer can I hide behind the excuse that my actions do not make a difference. I invite you to join me and share your story. Together our actions can be even more consequential.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Powered by WordPress