I just read a new book called The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz. For weeks I’d seen reviews of this woman’s account of her journey to fight poverty in Africa, including one review that began, “Be careful, this book will change you…”
Novogratz herself begins the book with Nelson Mandela’s words: “There is no passion to be found playing small in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
This book does a great job of combining a personal narrative of finding one’s true calling with concrete examples of what any of us could do to help fight global poverty. It tells Novogratz’s story from her childhood to working in the banking industry evaluating foreign investments to starting her own fund to invest in entrepreneurs in poverty-stricken countries. The journey that her old blue sweater takes from her hometown to a child in Rwanda is a great story in and of itself about how we are all interconnected.
Novogratz delves into practical steps each of us can take, including some that are written about really well in another book called The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer. Singer’s book asks you to take a look not so much at what you are doing — and whether that makes you a good person — but at what you are not doing. This is more philosophy than biography, if that’s your preference.
I make no claims of being a great humanitarian. I try to do my part each year by donating to UNICEF and volunteer now and again for organizations serving my local community, but these books really did inspire me. And truth be told, made me feel guilty about how little effort it would take on my part to make a bigger difference.
Even if you don’t have time to read the whole book (which I rarely seem to do anymore), next time you’re at Barnes & Noble, flip through a few chapters of The Blue Sweater. It’s well worth it.