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No hopeless numbers

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

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1.4 billion. According to the World Bank, that's the number of people living in poverty. It's a number that was revised upward last year – by close to 50 percent.

How do you reference a number so big? The significance becomes apparent when a news video or a face-to-face encounter provides some glimpse into the lives that make up that number– real people who, like everyone, want a better existence for themselves and the people they love.

Oxford professor Paul Collier commented in The New York Times on prospects for improving the lives of the world's poorest people. Writing from Zambia, where the average per capita annual income is about $921, Mr. Collier noted that, although the number of poor people in China and India far exceeds that of Africa, a greater increase in Chinese and Indian incomes is providing people with an important ingredient: hope. He observed, "hope makes a difference in people's ability to tolerate poverty; parents are willing to sacrifice as long as their children have a future.… Our top priority should be to provide credible hope where it has been lacking" (Sept. 22, 2008).

In times of adversity, even slight improvements in income or health brighten a person's outlook. But Collier makes an important qualification. For hope to be meaningful, it must be credible. Real hope rests on something more solid than increased income or economic development, important as they are. In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy addressed the hope that Collier speaks of as grounded in something that never fluctuates. It's a moral quality that people progressively recognize within themselves as they learn more about their nature as God's expression. Along with other important qualities such as humanity, honesty, affection, compassion, faith, and meekness, hope resonates with spiritual power, and is capable of transitioning humans out of the depths of deprivation and into the conviction of God's powerful healing love (see pp. 115-116).

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