You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘poverty’ tag.

I’m still working my way through Waking Up White and one of the most interesting chapters so far was the one on the Robin Hood syndrome – riding in to fix a problem without actually communicating with anyone who will be affected.  The problem is that when you do this, you run the risk of “helping” in a way that disempowers.  You are telling someone that you know how to fix them without speaking to them.  Their input must be valueless.

The end of the chapter challenged readers to check their favorite charity.  Is the director someone from the community being helped?  Or are they a white person living in a tower far, far away?

I have to admit that I was more than a little nervous.  I had no clue who was in charge of Heifer International.  After doing a little poking around, I was relieved to see that the Board includes someone from every region within the program.  This doesn’t mean that things are perfect, but an effort is being made.

Finding out how someone really and truly needs our help is tough.  It will take more than just asking questions because people in need are often accustomed to being ignored or belittled.  Why respond? They aren’t going to hear me anyway.

The solution is to get to know people.  Walk among them.  Eat beside them.  Take their hands.  There’s a reason Christ spent so much time talking to the outcasts and not just telling the religious leaders what to do.  He was here to lead the way.

–SueBE

Advertisements

According to the Pew Charitable Trust, my family is solidly middle class.  But it can be hard to feel that way when you are the poor ones within an extended family.  We’ve never had a home built.  We don’t jet off overseas.  And we live on the wrong side of the river and we actually like it here.

In spite of this, I’m amazed at how few materials wants I have.  One of my editors gave each of her writers an Amazon gift card.  I would put something in my cart and then take it out again.  “Nah, I don’t really need this.”  Or I’d try to pick out a new pair of earrings . . . but no.  They’re pretty enough but I don’t feel a drive to own them.  It is amazing how many things I can talk myself out of buying.

Poor or wealthy?  In spite of the opinions of those who scoff at my non-designer purse, my heavily used car, and yes that is a hole in the toe of my slipper, I feel wealthy enough. I’m above the flood line and live someplace that has reliable electricity.  I have a home and heat.

But I still find myself longing for a few things.  I hate injustice.  And it drives me nuts when people abuse the environment which means that I want social justice and environmental awareness.

Wealthy enough to want for others?  Maybe I can make that a thing.

–SueBE

 

He was sitting on the curb in front of the barbecue restaurant. White haired, simply dressed but clean. Alone. Was he trying to catch my eye? It was hard to tell. His glance was quick, pleading, afraid. “Do you need some help?” I asked him, seeing that he was shivering. (It was cool, but not cold — was it Parkinson’s? Delirium tremens?)

“I have nowhere to go,” he said. “I’ve been living under that bridge [gesturing]. I don’t have any money. I can’t even catch a bus.”

As my husband trotted off to the car to get one of the bags we carry with us to give to those less fortunate than ourselves (we haven’t got the right ingredients down just yet; the ones we’re carrying now hold money, a first aid kit, a hands-free flashlight, wet wipes, breath mints, a meal replacement bar and an emergency camping blanket), I listened.

“I’m scared,” he said. “I don’t know what to do.”

“We’re going to give you some things you might need.”

“I’ve been trying to get someone to buy me something to eat.”

“Oh! What would you like?”

“Anything! A sandwich. Anything.”

I gave him a “blessing bag” and went inside, where we ordered him a large sandwich with slaw and a bottle of water. When I went out to give it to him, he seemed startled. He kept saying, “Thank you.” I kept saying, “I’ll pray for you.” By the time we finished eating, he was gone.

This is not about doing a good deed for someone. In fact, it’s rather the opposite. In this man, I saw the face of God. What would you do for God? What wouldn’t you do? And yet I know what I did was not enough. Could I have taken him to a shelter? Where is our local shelter? Would they have had a bed for him? How would that have helped him tomorrow or the next day or the next?

I realize, of course, that most of the people we’ve given bags to are panhandlers rather than actual homeless people. They probably throw away everything but the money. But I have a feeling the man we met last night was the real McCoy. And I failed him.

Yes, I believe prayer is powerful. And I am keeping my promise to him by praying for him. But I could see in his eyes, even as I said the words, “How is that going to help me right now?”

I saw the face of God and was unprepared. But isn’t that the way of things? Won’t we always be surprised by where and how we see God? Won’t we always be unready?

As we drove home, I noticed a garbage bag tucked into the corner of the underpass he’d earlier indicated. Were those his belongings? Maybe. If I go back there, will I find him? What do I have to offer him? Am I willing to open my home to him? (And if I’m not, aren’t I saying, “You are the face of God except maybe not”?)

I wish I had answers. Instead I can only tell you: Look for him — not the man I described, but for God. And try to do what you can. May you fare better than I.

Alarming news abounds. Look at Ferguson. Look at the Middle East. The Children’s Defense Fund recently published a report that states the following horrifying facts: The United States, though first among industrialized nations in military spending and number of billionaires, ranks SECOND TO WORST in child poverty rates (only Romania is worse) and dead last — WORST — in protecting children against gun violence. How is this okay? (Answer: It’s not.) As usual, I turn to poetry to loosen my emotions. Please, everyone, treat each other with kindness. Okay?

There is ice here
and snow and sere
desert; there are children
(all colors) and guns,
explosives. The world
is cracking under the weight
of itself.

Lighter hearts can lift
(like helium) the gravity
of evil; open ears and arms
can hold the load so it
is never too heavy
for one person to bear.

We must approach
one another like hummingbirds,
gently avoiding the buzz of wings
and wait, abiding,
for the right instant
to offer nectar.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: