My father was a saint. No exaggeration. He was born to small-town Texan wealth, and was stationed in California during WWII military service. He met my mother, who was a 3d generation Californian on the White side. She was a brilliant singer and scholar. Together they took to the mission field. They traversed Latin America -- almost always in harm's way -- looking for the poor, hungry, sick, and vulnerable.
We would often spend a few days with the wealthy Patrons of the great plantations or the owners of the great mountain mines of the Andes. These prosperous landowners often gave us shelter in their enormous homes, and let us sleep on beds with silk sheets or high thread count cotton. I played in their private zoos and rode their polo ponies.
Then a few nights later we would be down river, happy to find another friendly welcome, perhaps this time from a family of campesinos. One time we were guests in a home where the lady of the house served us chicha, one glass at a time, served on a single small beautiful carved tray. We all shared the one glass, the only tableware in her house. Sometimes we were grateful to sleep with our mosquito nets spread on the pounded straw strewn over the dirt under a thatch roof with no walls.
My parents built a house on a high bank overlooking a blue lake in the middle of the green jungle. Within days, people came to live near us. A village grew around us. One of the villagers was a strong serious woman. Carmen became a close friend of my mother and we all loved her. But one month, when my parents were away, Carmen died of anemia -- a lack of iron in her poor diet. Her death stunned me.
I knew my Dad had arranged for orchards and chicken yards and cattle drives into the area. I grew up with bananas, papayas, palm nuts, and mangoes falling from trees. My mother had designed and built a huge chicken yard, and set dozens of hens. And yet people coming to live around us had been starving. I asked my Dad, "Why are there so many people dying of hunger?"
He said "They just don't know any better".
"What?" I said. "Is there no one who can teach these poor people about planting orchards and raising chickens?"
"Oh", my Dad explained. "It's not the poor that are ignorant. The poor know exactly how to plant and raise food. It's the rich that are the ignorant ones."