First of all, I’d like to say thank you. I’m able to write this blog because of the groundwork you laid. I may not be a computer programmer or analyst, but I can be a computer user. That fact has truly enriched my life in innumerable ways.
Secondly, I’d like to wish you well in your newest endeavors. It is a rare man who does not treasure success so much that he hoards it, like the sports star who doesn’t know when to retire. It is also a rare man who does not hoard his treasure – just ask Warren Buffett. In this age of conspicuous consumption, it is a breath of fresh air to find someone who realizes that we owe our brothers and sisters on the planet a chance to have a good and healthy life.
It is to that end that I am writing. I have heard of your foundation’s work to eradicate preventable illnesses in other nations. I wondered if you had ever considered that we have certain populations that live in third world type conditions right here in the United States.
The group that I have become familiar with is the Oglala Lakota Indian tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Although I myself live in Massachusetts, I have visited the reservation several times and made some friends there. While they have lots of land (not particularly good land), they have no jobs. The unemployment rate is between 80% to 90%. There is no “mass transit” and many people have to walk many miles every day to get to where they need to be (one friend walked 5 miles each way to apply for a job). The teen suicide rate is the highest in the country. Infant mortality is high; so is domestic violence. Alcoholism and drug use takes parents away from the children, who are often raised by grandparents. Most homes are poorly constructed, poorly maintained and very crowded (sometimes 10 or more people in a 2 bedroom home). Indeed, I’ve been to one home where they had to jam a towel in the front door to keep the door closed. In another mobile home, there was a hole to the outdoors in the floor right inside the doorway. People may have food stamps and “commods”, but the food frequently runs out. So does the propane used for cooking and heating. In addition, the food we supply has probably been one factor in the current epidemic status of diabetes on the reservation.
I could go on and on. Education. Health care. But you would probably be less inclined to read the entire laundry list of pain and suffering that exists in the Native American population on the Pine Ridge Reservation and other reservations in this country. You may think that this poverty also exists in cities, but in cities people also have access to many more resources. On the reservation, those who need what few resources there are may not be able to reach them because they have no transportation.
How can we allow so many people in this country live with so little? It seems an even bigger “sin” to suffer from the lack of basic necessities when there is so much plenty right around you. Children in Africa don’t watch American TV with all its advertisements that show how much everyone has. I have been asked to supply computers and phones, which I could not afford to provide. I have been asked to supply funds for funerals and shoes – these I have done.
But most of us don’t have the resources that you and your foundation have. Please, I ask you, look at our own nation and the needs of the poor here, as well as in other nations in the world. That’s all I am asking – look.
I believe that you and your wife are people of honor. I am trusting that, if you ever have the opportunity to read this letter, you will look.