Not Pity Poor: Grace of the Life Lottery's Runner Ups

fortitude and perseverance forged in a hard place

  We don’t choose the circumstances we are born into. Life's lottery is ruled by chance, not fairness, and it assigns entirely random lots. Having picked up a winning ticket, it’s easy to forget that the vast majority of people have not. Life isn’t about money (although most of us need some) and neither is the life lottery – it is about opportunity, a choice in life and access to resources like education, healthcare, food and shelter. I don’t think we should all have the same, but we should all have the same opportunities. The people you see in this collection are poor, but not pity-poor. There is no need to label any of them “poor thing” and take away from their tremendous strength and bravery and grace forged in a hard place. There is much joy and happiness in their lives. However, their struggle to get by is an injustice considering the abundance of resources in this world and how others feast on it carelessly. Maybe some have worked hard to get where they are; but given an advantageous starting point and lower hurdles, there is little merit in the steps they took. It is this false sense of entitlement that keeps us from shaping a world where opportunities and resources are distributed more evenly. Pity is misplaced here; awareness is welcome and so is action. There are many ways to even out the chances of a slanted life lottery – from fighting disadvantageous global policies that hinder the empowerment of impoverished communities to donating or engaging in a social cause.  


a glimpse


glimpse: LIFE LOTTERY | Against all intuition, this is not a picture that speaks for itself. It doesn’t tell the whole story and is easy to misinterpret. One might toss it into a cliché-box somewhere in the mind’s attic, where it gathers dust quickly. Yes, these children are poor, but they are not “pity-poor.” They oughtn’t to be thought of as “aww these poor kids.” It doesn’t do their strength and fortitude and grace any justice. It denies them the agency to make the best of a hard lot. They have lives. They play, they laugh. Probably more than their spoiled cousins elsewhere. Having less is not the problem here; but having little or no access to the most basic resources, rendering food, shelter, hygiene, healthcare and education daily struggles, is a fundamental injustice. Pity doesn’t help these kids, nor does indifferent awareness. Only action can level out the odds of an arbitrary life lottery. We don’t choose the circumstances we are born into and there is little to no merit in where we end up being when given a winning ticket. A false sense of entitlement keeps us from redistributing resources and opportunities in this world more evenly – from the life lottery winners to the runner ups.

glimpse: 20 YEARS AFTER | Tucked away in-between Cape Town’s plush waterfront and Stellenbosch’s fine wineries, the Cape Flats aren’t exactly glamorous. That’s why they are easily overlooked by beauty-craving tourists, even though their ample expanse makes them hard to miss. Everybody had hyped up South Africa and Cape Town as heaven on earth, but nobody had mentioned the abysmal disparity. I was taken aback by how segregated the country still was, 20 years after apartheid. The institutionalized oppression had left societal trenches so deep that they undermined social and racial equity at every step. There is plenty of joy and grace in the townships, no doubt; but people’s happiness is up against vast inherited sufferings and struggles. Many here live ambiguously between smiles and frowns, amid light and shade.

glimpse: ENTREPRENEURS | In parts of the world where people work towards the next meal and not success, where they have less than little, where visions are lived from day to day, where no government backs you, where nobody gets a handout, where education and opportunity are scarce, where the odds are against anybody changing any of these circumstances, one finds resolute, resourceful and meritorious entrepreneurs at every corner.

glimpse: RAGS & RICHES | From rags to riches is a tale aspired by many, materialized by few. It fluffily suggests that anybody can climb the economic ladder, regardless the rung they start from. It highlights hard work and determination, while leaving out opportunity, education, and luck. Let’s be real. We live in a world where the many rags likely stay rags and a marginal minority goes from riches to richer. Orderly segregated by a fence, one climbs on deck of a yacht, while the other keeps sitting on the ground; one buys, one sells. Telling tales soothes, yet change thrives on telling truths. If the ones far atop stepped down a little, those at the very bottom could climb a lot. Maybe then both would come to find that a good place to be is the middle, where basic needs are met and aspirations of happiness replace the longing for wealth.










reads | travel

Volunteering Motives - Who Helps Whom and Why

Can volunteering abroad truly be selfless and whom does it actually help?

...we can all just go on a quest for our own motives to do something social (might that be altruistic or not) and do our best to actually contribute to the empowerment of local communities and the alteration of disadvantageous global structures... read more

reads | travel

Reality Check: Volunteering Benefits & Pitfalls

Are volunteering programs more helpful or harmful?

If implemented right, volunteering programs employed by grassroots nonprofits can add additional value to community-empowering projects along various dimensions. However, oftentimes benefits come alongside cultural and ethical pitfalls... read more

reads | travel

Who Is That White Savior With the Complex?

Are Westerners trying to save the world on their terms?

...development assistance can  be viable; unless it feeds into an individual or systemic White Savior Complex that results in the idea of one side helping the other and distracts people from the underlying issues and inequities. read more

photos | people

Outside Job

when your office isn’t anywhere near an office

...nobody robbed us of our freedom; it was an inside job we signed up for. Outside jobs, by contrast, are not always a deliberate choice and oftentimes the harder labor, but they come with a certain spatial freedom... see more




more people


photos | people

Human Shake

what a fine blend we are

This collection is a blender, so watch out that you don’t end up in it one day. see more

photos | people

That’s Funny – Humor Mirror

tickled by humor, genuineness surfaces

Only ever living in one head, our head, knowing what’s going on in another, is anyone’s guess. The best clue we’ll ever get is genuine emotion... see more

photos | people

Story Time

we all have one

Our narratives have been full of forks, twists and turns, shortcuts and detours, but here we are to intersect with each other in the now. see more

photos | people

The Observer Effect: Momentary Momentum

in-between instants

...the camera’s skill to freeze the momentary momentum in-between scenes is nothing short of miraculous and reminds me of a quirky phenomenon in the quantum realm: the observer effect. see more