BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: Finally, Lucky Severson has a story about a man in Los Angeles who takes very seriously his calling to help the poor -- around the world and also in his own backyard. And, trying to help the poor, he is becoming pretty close to poor himself.
LUCKY SEVERSON: By most standards, Gerry Straub's career is in a tailspin. His earnings, he says, have dropped from $10,000 a week to about $300, but he's not complaining.
GERARD STRAUB (Documentary Filmmaker): Happiness isn't measured by how much you can acquire, you know. I think it's maybe how much you can let go of. The more you let go of, it seems, the more you have.
SEVERSON: He's let go of almost everything, except his work, which has become his obsession and now his mission. Straub makes documentaries about the world's poverty, hoping it will motivate us to do something about it. This is from one of his films called RESCUE ME.
Mr. STRAUB (From Film RESCUE ME): We need more than an emotional response to the plight of the poor. We need more than feelings of sorrow and regret. We need to be moved by grace to action. When we here the cries of the oppressed, the cries of the poor, we hear the voice of God.
SEVERSON: The World Bank estimates that one in six of us -- that's 1.1 billion people -- live in extreme poverty worldwide. Eight million people die each year because they don't have the food, water, medicine, or other necessities we take for granted. That means on average, because of poverty, 20,000 people died today and yesterday and will again tomorrow.
Mr. STRAUB: I think it's immoral that people are starving to death. I think it's immoral that so many people are living on the streets. I think it's immoral that our lives are so centered on acquiring more things when quite clearly the gospel has a totally different message. It's about caring for each other.
SEVERSON: Straub says he has found his Catholic faith again, after losing it somewhere along the way. As a younger man, he earned lots of money and recognition producing daytime soap operas like the popular GENERAL HOSPITAL. But he says he was unfulfilled. He turned against organized religion altogether after his stint as producer of the Christian Broadcasting Network's 700 CLUB. By then, he says, he was spiritually empty and searching for truth. He found himself in a church in Rome, reading Psalm 63, about a soul searching for God.
Mr. STRAUB: Something happened. I just felt this presence of God. I just was overwhelmed by this sense of love. And then I remember getting up, and I bowed before the crucifix in the tabernacle and just, like, electricity went through my body.
SEVERSON: In that moment, he says, he was transformed from an atheist to a pilgrim, on a journey to lend a voice to those he says Christ identified with most -- the poorest and least among us. His belief, at its core, is that to get close to God, you must first get close to the poor.
Mr. STRAUB: You show your love for God by how you treat the poor. That's all through the Old Testament. It's all through the New Testament.
(From Film RESCUE ME): Who are these people we call poor, people we so easily judge and dismiss? They are Jesus in a distressing disguise. In the faces of the poor, we see the face of Christ, and we are called to love them with the criteria with which we will be judged.
SEVERSON: Straub has shot and produced eight documentaries in 11 countries. He's focused his lens on everything from lepers in Brazil to the 75,000 people who eke out a life at the mountain of garbage known as Payatas outside Manila. He has formed a nonprofit foundation called San Damiano, named after the church where St. Francis of Assisi committed his life to those who have the least. Not surprisingly, St. Francis is his hero. Straub's videos are shown at fund raisers, and the proceeds go to Christian charities working with the poor.
In this country, Straub did not have to go far to find poverty -- his backyard. Fifty square blocks of misery in downtown Los Angeles known as Skid Row.