As you all know, I travel a lot. 

 I noticed something in developing countries: poor, unmarried women often get pregnant very young. Once they have delivered their baby, many of these young mothers end up as sex workers.  

 Why? 

 Because developing countries are often very religious countries, where pregnancy outside of marriage is morally unacceptable. For example, if an unmarried woman working as a maid were to get pregnant, she would be fired. Her pregnancy would be proof that she had committed a serious sin, and no one else would hire her because of it. 

 But I wondered why they were getting pregnant. There are so many contraceptive options, so many ways to prevent pregnancy. So, what was going on? 

 Ah, the church. It forbids sex education. These women are uninformed. They get carried away with passion or promises from some unscrupulous men and have unprotected sex. The church also prohibits abortion, so there they are: they get pregnant, give birth, and lose their job. For many of them, the answer is sex work. 

 While traveling in developing countries, I made another observation. 

 Hope is absolutely necessary to survive. People need hope. We all have problems. When we lose hope, we feel defeated, depressed, or suicidal, depending on how we perceive the magnitude of the problem. 

 What do poor people in developing countries do when there is no hope of getting out of the poverty trap? Where does hope come from? 

 From their religion, nourished by the church. 

 I have not seen well-dressed men or women climbing up hundreds of cathedral stairs on their knees at the Guadalupe Cathedral in Mexico City. It is the poor men and women who make that climb, hoping that if they pray and pray, there might be a salvation for them. The prayer gives them hope. So, instead of getting off their knees and going to study or learn a profession or open a business, no matter how small to start with—they pray. They pass the responsibility of solving problems with their health, family, or money to God. God will save them.  

 Will God do it? Or will God help the sailor who rows his own boat? 

 You know the joke. A very religious man prayed and prayed. One day, there was a flood, so the man climbed to the roof of his house and prayed.  

 A boat came to save him, but he refused to climb aboard. “I am very religious, and I have never sinned. God will save me,” he said to the rescuers. 

 Then, a helicopter came to save him. He told the pilot the same thing. “I have never sinned. God will save me.” 

 But, the flood kept growing. The man drowned.  

 When he got to heaven, the man complained to God.  

 “Why didn’t you save me?” he asked. “I was a very religious man, and I served you religiously.” 

 God said, “What do you mean, ‘I did not save you’? I sent a boat, and you refused it. I sent a helicopter, and you refused it.” 

 Take full responsibility for your situation first, then—and only then, not before—pray and let God take care of it.  

 Just thinking, 

  Ichak Kalderon Adizes