People told me poor people are poor because they are lazy, backward, and looking for handouts.
Then I stopped to talk with a man dressed in rags. He carried a machete and a hoe — the only farming equipment in his part of the world.
“This your field?”
“One of ’em. I farm three. One over by Abricots, this one by Bonbon, and one over by Anse du Clerc.”
This was out in the boonies west of our home in Jeremie, Haiti. I wondered how he could lug his tools the several miles between those villages.
“Where do you live?”
“Over by Anse du Clerc.”
“You come out to work every day?”
“Ha? We have to eat. Every day. Of course every day.”
“Do your children help you?”
“How many kids do you have?”
“Fifteen. But no more since the wire.”
No more babies
“Right! The wire! Best thing ever! They put that wire in her, and no more babies!”
“At the clinic in Bonbon they gave us this wire. Best thing ever! No more babies!”
Since neither of us had heard of Malthus, we dropped talk of the wire. We parted on friendly terms as equals with neither of us begging the other for a handout.
And that’s how a Haitian farmer taught me a poor man can be hard-working, innovative, and independent.