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Day 3: Striving to Have Enough — Opportunities for Colombian People Through Savings

By David Gardner

The following travel post was written by David Gardner, a member of the Opportunity International Board of Governors and co-founder of The Motley Fool, a multimedia financial services company, living in Washington, D.C. with his wife Margaret and their teenage children. The Gardners are traveling right now on the Opportunity Family Week Insight Trip to Colombia. Margaret and daughter Katherine have each also written posts about the trip this week, which you can read here.

The Amigos del Progreso Trust Group in Cartagena's Sinaí neighborhood. Pictured: group president Wilfrido Pérez Lucas (center row, blue & orange shirt); and Opportunity travelers David Gardner (2nd from right, in blue), his daughter Katherine (to his left), son Gabe (to his right), son Zach (front row, far left), wife Margaret (behind him), and traveler Jeannette Stewart (behind her).Vanguard founder Jack Bogle’s excellent recent book Enough opens with an anecdote of a legendary meeting between American novelists Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller. They are at a party on a private island owned by a hedge fund manager. Vonnegut leans over to Heller — who authored the renowned book Catch-22 — and says, “Joe, did you know that our host made more money in the past 24 hours than you have made off Catch-22 over 24+ years?”

To which Heller replies, “Ah, but Kurt, I have something that he will never have.”

“What’s that?”

Enough.”

Given that you’re reading this, I have a prediction: You already have “enough.” And if you don’t think you do, I suggest you take an Opportunity International Insight Trip for clear convincing. My family is on day three of ours in Colombia. We just got back from spending a few hours with a Trust Group of 13 microfinance clients, entrepreneurs who are building an economic future, mostly by selling coffee. In contrast to so many of my own countrymen making 80-150 times more a month, these Colombian Indians from a small Western province have savings. And as they launch a new line of business — handbags and bracelets — they’re not needing to tap the nest egg they’ve so far pooled together.

Their leader is one of the youngest men in the group. His tendency to bend his head when he speaks would seemingly hide, but cannot, the luminous gleam in his eyes. In very broken English, he explained to our group (which included my teenagers — and I’m so glad they got to see this) that he hoped their new line of handicrafts would enable him to fulfill his dream… to learn English.

Let me assure you, dear reader, we have enough.

I bet he’ll do that and more. If this Trust Group were a stock, I’d be buying.

Pace Heller, I think many who have enough keep working harder worldwide to create more than enough for all those around us, including new friends connected to us through other cultures. More than enough, well handled — more than enough, done right — becomes savings. Savings lead to capital investment. And capital growth lifts our world ever higher — toward higher education, lower infant mortality, the constant acceleration of superior technologies, and far greater longevity — longevity itself is up one-third worldwide just since the 1950’s. It is an amazing story that the myopic or fear-laced headlines of the day frequently seem to miss.

But picking your way up a steep, humble, trash-strewn cul-de-sac blessed by tropical rains not an hour earlier, you have an opportunity to see further and see deeper.

For this day, I know each of us in attendance was particularly grateful.

Stay tuned to the Opportunity Blog for more updates from the Family Week Trip to Colombia in the coming days ahead.

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