Master Teaching

a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher

Potato Perspective

img_3831c(We continue to assess our attitudes and behavior toward the ignored and forgotten. This readers’ favorite offers one perspective on our fourth essential question: How do the ignored and forgotten bless me?)

250 pounds of potatoes! Potatoes are almost always part of LEAPAsia’s book project visits to impoverished areas, but one trip stands out. That time we came home with five 50-pound bags, gifts from a Seed Fund scholarship family and the schools we visited.

Yesterday some Seed Fund students helped me research potato farming. Without the help of farm machinery, the students told me, three family members can harvest about 1650 pounds of potatoes in a day. (I didn’t believe them either, so I double-checked. It’s true!)

250 pounds of potatoes = 1 hour of hard labor

In the desert mountains of Northwest China where not much else will grow, potatoes are the local commodity. This year potatoes are going for eight cents a pound. And so my friends–the three of them working together–earned $130 for a day’s hard labor.

250 pounds of potatoes = 1 hour of hard labor = $20 (divided by 3 laborers)

In between lesson planning and leading a teacher support group, I did research for this blog post, all while earning my salary. While I typed and taught toward my just over $1000 per MONTH, I learned that the average household income in those desert mountains is just over $1000 per YEAR.[1]

250 pounds of potatoes = 1 hour of hard labor = $20 = 1 week’s salary

According to Facebook IQ, in one month around the world there are 1.1 billion interactions about cooking and baking. 18 million of those posts, comments, likes, and shares happen in the U.S. every day.[2] (And then there are all the pictures of meals in restaurants…)

For my friends, food is not an indulgence or a good story. It’s a daily necessity. For them, potatoes are a food staple. They’ll keep 2000 pounds for the year’s food supply and next year’s seed.

250 pounds of potatoes = 1 hour of hard labor = $20 = 1 week’s salary = 2 months’ supply of food staple

IMG_5547In recent years each American has spent around $700 per year on Christmas gifts and other holiday supplies. Almost half of those shoppers make their purchases online, I assume from the comforts of home…or a coffee shop.[3]

In the dusty desert mountains of Northwest China, there are few “comforts of home.” Even a necessity like water is scarce. Every drop used to wash  after a day of digging is precious, often lugged by hand from a community well. From their work-worn and dirty hands to mine, they offer their gift of potatoes with apologies for its simplicity, but I’m not sure it’s value can be measured.

250 pounds of potatoes = 1 hour of hard labor = $20 = 1 week’s salary = 2 months’ supply of food staple = rare gift

Someone advised me recently to be thankful for what I have in comparison to what others lack. Every time I return from one of our book deliveries in poverty-stricken areas, I am especially thankful for my heated home, warm clothes, and healthy food. But being thankful for what I have in contrast to what those students and their families lack somehow doesn’t seem right. Instead, I honor their gift: 250 pounds of potatoes and a lesson in the art of sharing. Out of their poverty, they make me rich.


[1]Chinese Ethnic Areas See 10% Growth
[2]Moments that Matter: Cooking up Connections
[3]The Commerce of Christmas

Further exploration

What’s your perspective?

We welcome your comments on any of the ideas in this post or in answer to the questions below.

  • How would you answer the question: How do the ignored and forgotten bless me?
  • How have you been made rich by those you’re trying to help?
  • What lessons in the art of sharing have you learned recently?

Post Author

Melissa K. Smith

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This entry was posted on March 15, 2017 by in blessing the ignored and forgotten, Melissa K. Smith, readers' choice.

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