In my mind today I'm thinking about poverty. I went to a brief meeting of the local Matthew 25:40 last night. So many of us have no clue of or about poverty. There are probably hundreds of impoverished people in our small town population of around 16,000 people. Some are mentally handicapped, some are drug addicts or alcoholics, and some are just truly down on their luck.
As a former teacher what bothers me most about poverty is the fact that children are trapped in this wheel of poverty. They know nothing but the life of living moment to moment. The lives of other more fortunate children is totally foreign to them, and uncomfortable. Routines, rules, and hygienic lifestyles totally turn them off. Education is just another tool of the privileged to embarrass, oppress, and degrade them making sure they understand their "places." I have to give props or positive affirmations to our little town for trying to be a village for all especially the poor. We have several nonprofit outreaches.
At the meeting, the council is trying desperately to become a better steward with its resources. Trying to make appropriate times and allocate places to serve the poor is a daunting, two-edged sword. I sat there thinking the poor have no routines, schedules, or time management skills. Every aspect of being poor is on the cusp of survival. It's the now. There are no plans for the future much less tomorrow's meals. We try to fit them into our world of routines, 401k's, and commitments.
The poor are modern day hunters and gathers. They are in a constant state of flux. When I was a teacher in public schools, I can't tell you how many times I wanted to either stay at school keeping my students there and safe because I knew what waited at home for them. The students would want me to give extra assignments because they needed the distraction from their home lives. I often got in trouble with administration because students did not want to leave my room in the afternoons. Through the years I contemplated adopting students after mine were grown but my teaching career ended prematurely because of my health. So now I try to support my would have been students through other venues.
Hopefully, small and large communities can help solve the cycle of generational poverty. So where do you start? Do you rip out from under the current poor the resources they have and decide who among them is worthy, redeemable, or can rehabilitate? Do you narrow those hand outs hoping it will spurn them to get a job, be responsible, and most importantly nurture their children? Or will they exploit and squander said resources for their addictions whether they be drugs or materialistic or egocentric? Is the poverty snowball too huge to stop? Where is the enabling and helping line drawn? These are real life conundrums.
After sleeping on it, I have come back to the children. It always does with me. We have safe houses for men and women but today we need them for the children. The end of poverty begins with nurturing and educating the mother before the child is born. Providing and educating the mother and child from infancy until school. This may be in forms of modern day orphanages that let the addicted or inept parents leave their children to a safe place so they can become givers not takers. The first three years are vital. They may be there until adulthood but their lives could possibly be more fruitful than their parents. I know you're thinking this is too much. Why are they having these babies for someone else to raise? They have zero resources. Your anger is justified from your educated perspective but grumbling is not classified as an action. That's textbook poverty. No planning just surviving the moments. Some of those moments create passion and children. Listen to "In the Ghetto" by Elvis.
What did I learn today? Remember I'm taking some courses this summer. See, feel, and act are key components of compassion. Today see the poor. Search your heart and try to understand from their perspective. And if you can, act. Here's your assignment today. Help stock the local food pantry. Volunteer to read at a public school. Look into the eyes of the poor and acknowledge them as sisters and brethren.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Dedicated to our villages
This was the quote that started my quest this morning. It's from Give Us This Day.
["In a world of different and even conflicting values, it is not easy to hold to principles without becoming self-righteous. But to act as judge and jury is to exceed our authority and may alienate those we should love. If the final judgment is for the angels and for God’s loving mercy, that should be enough to quiet the tempest within us. "Do you understand?" asks Jesus of each of us. It’s a question we will always struggle with."]