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In our opinion: Care for the poor

Published: Sunday, Oct. 17 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

A man who did not wish to be identified, who lost his job two months ago after being hurt on the job, works to collect money for his family on a Miami street corner Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010.

Associated Press

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The United Nations has designated today as International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The day is meant to highlight the tremendous struggle faced by the world's poor and provide an opportunity to think constructively about how we redress their plight.

The Deseret News editorial advisory board has identified care for the poor as a distinct area of editorial emphasis. Today we wish to discuss with you why we have chosen this emphasis and some of the principles that will inform our commentary and analysis.

A core value that animates our work at the Deseret News is the desire to improve lives. We seek to lift, inspire, and help others. Unfortunately, there is little that brings the concerns and hopes of those with the greatest needs into the public gaze. What they do to ekeout an existence doesn't naturally garner notoriety or attention. Because the lives of the poor are mostly lived in quiet desperation, it is far too easy to overlook how the poor are affected by our actions and policies. This is one of our hopes: that we can bring the concerns of the poor out of the shadows.

But simply noticing the problem will not improve lives. In addition to raising awareness, we want to provide our readers with tools that can address the root causes of poverty. We want to make you aware of proven solutions that can help to relieve suffering and redress existing concerns.

We believe in the dignity and worth of all individuals and that each individual deserves the freedom to prosper. We believe that when individuals are given an environment that protects personal safety, honors individual dignity, provides a way to learn and use marketable skills and then points toward legitimate reward, that most will take the steps to meet their own needs and improve their lives.

Consequently, a foundational component for helping the poor will always be a vibrant and growing economy. The ranks of the poor domestically have swelled during our prolonged economic crisis. Internationally, the biggest reduction in abject poverty has come from the stunning economic growth of previously impoverished China and India.

But while healthy markets are necessary, traditional economic growth is not sufficient. The economy of care has to address individual circumstances and behaviors that the marketplace overlooks. The marketplace doesn't reward the little league coach of a fatherless boy who needs help getting to practice and extra guidance on how to take initiative; the marketplace doesn't reward the accountability partner for a recovering heroin addict who takes repeated calls in the middle of the night when the addict's cravings strike hardest; the marketplace doesn't reward the nurse who donates his vacation time to provide humanitarian service to indigent patients.

Effective care, although personalized, never replaces self-reliance. Effective care can alleviate suffering, but it also teaches principles of initiative, frugality and stewardship. And genuine care should never be patronizing — the investment in care should result in friendships that enrich the lives of the givers as they learn lessons of gratitude and the universal truth that "but for the grace of God, there go I."

In this week's Viewpoint section we have provided you with pieces, some unique to the Deseret News, that discuss some root causes of domestic and international poverty. Some propose solutions that may seem counterintuitive or controversial. We hope that they are enlightening. As we explore the challenging issue of care for the poor in our reporting and commentary, we look forward to hearing from you about what you believe is effective and worthwhile in the noble effort to eradicate poverty.

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