Part of the Solution to Poverty…part 1
“Part of the solution to poverty is doing whatever it takes to get your heart to stay with the poor.” ~Ann Voskamp
Back in July when we were still in the States I had all these thoughts swarming around in my head. Thoughts of extreme poverty and extreme wealth. Of injustice and justice, of ignorance and knowledge, of faith and action. We had just come from 2 impoverished countries (Madagascar and the Philippines) and then landed in gorgeous, wealthy Santa Barbara as though none of the realities we had seen, experienced and lived were true.
As time passed in Santa Barbara, Jamie and I both found ourselves fighting with ourselves to prevent the natural tendency of falling back into some of the traps that come with living in an affluent country. Admittedly, at times I can’t say that we fought real hard. It was easy to enjoy the comforts, the food, the beauty of life in America. And yet, it was so incredibly emotionally difficult. Difficult knowing that we knew the difference. That we have close, dear friends that LIVE the difference, day in and day out, all the days of their lives. Knowing the disparity that plagues our world. Knowing that some don’t know while others do know but choose ignorance and to merely look the other direction.
One day I was in a yoga class at the local YMCA in Santa Barbara…. ahh, the joy of practicing yoga in a group in a cool studio room within a large gym. I was enjoying the “good life” of America. At the end of the 75-minute yoga class, with the lights dim, we would enter into a relaxation time. We’d lay on our yoga mats, cover ourselves with blankets, close our eyes, silence ourselves and relax. 5 minutes of freedom. Yet I found my thoughts imprisoned in my mind, screaming to get out, to put words to what my heart felt. As I lay there, *relaxing*, my mind took note that those blankets that were covering so many of us… that there was another 60 of them, folded neatly in the studio closet, waiting to be used for just a few minutes a day. As I lay there I wondered how many women, children, grandparents and men sleep without a blanket to keep them warm at night? No blankets, no central heating, sleeping cold in mud or brick or grass houses. And then I became conscious of the yoga mat beneath me. And then I wondered how many sleep on dirt floors with nothing but perhaps a straw mat between them and the cold soil of the earth? And here I lie, on a yoga mat, in a yoga class at 5:45pm. And that’s not to mention my $3.00 almond milk iced latte that I enjoyed the day before…. how many have never even sipped milk or know what almonds are, let alone have tasted the sweet deliciousness of almond milk!? And while sipping this almond milk iced latte I was picking up a pair of new tennis shoes for each of our daughters to wear in the coming year in Madagascar, yet how many people have never even owned a single pair of shoes? Rather these women, children, men, walk around shoeless through grime and muck and human waste that has overflowed from the open sewage systems and as a result they contract hook worm because they don’t have anything to protect their feet. And what about the lepers? There’s still a tremendous number of people living with leprosy in Madagascar. People whose toes and feet have been amputated because they don’t have shoes to protect their feet in which their nerves are deadened so they can’t feel when they step on a nail and the wound becomes infected, gangrenous, dead. My mind was swarming in these 5 minutes. 5 minutes of *relaxation* of which how many people never really get to experience because their minds are swarming with how they’ll feed their children, and get medicine for their loved ones and send their precious littles to school. And how many people do we personally know in all these situations? The shoeless, the leper, the blanket-less, the bed-less, the milk-less? We know and we love and we work with and walk alongside too many friends that experience these things and so many more. We count ourselves privileged to have the blessing to love and work with and walk alongside and be friends with these folks.
And as Ann Voskamp has written, “Part of the solution to poverty is doing whatever it takes to get your heart to stay with the poor.”
This is an excerpt from Ann Voskamp’s blog, A Holy Experience. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should! Her book, One Thousand Gifts is a must read for anyone who wants to work on living a life of gratitude.