According to About Schmidt,(which I finally saw last night), salvation can be bought for $22 a month. That's the price Warren Schmidt (played by Jack Nicholson) pays to sponsor Ndugu Umbo, a Tanzanian orphan. Just before the credits roll, Warren asks, what difference has my life made? He finds the answer in Ndugu's painting of a little boy holding hands with a man--a picture that breaks Warren's heart open as the closing credits roll.

The cynic in me wants to complain--"So this $22 a months covers all of Warren's sins?" The film would have been a whole lot more convincing had Warren sold off his Winnebago Adventurer (a RV that'd cost $78,000 used) -- there are a lot more orphans than Ndugu that need saving.

But the film got one essential things right--the key to making people change is the human touch. Warren Scmidt may not have given a rat's a$$ about orphans in Tanzania--but one boy who needs help--he can deal with that.

A missionary whose involved in community development in Thailand, helping keep young girls out of the sex trade, says that when he talks to groups in the US about his work, he has to make it "bite size." That is, to help them see the small picture--here's how you can help this one girl have a better life. Once they buy into the small picture, seeing the big picture becomes easier.

This is a place where we journalists can help. It's harder to ignore someone's plight once they have a name and face; harder to hate when someone has a face and not just a label.


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