For some time now one of the ways I have been working to fight poverty has been to make monthly contribution to the Humanitarian Aid and the Perpetual Education Fund of the LDS Church. I happen to be active LDS. As such, I routinely give back 10% of my net income in "tithing". I believe that to be a basic commandment. Beyond that, however, I have the option to donate to other funds if and when I choose. Both the Humanitarian Aid Fund and the Perpetual Education funds have been important ways for me to help my brothers and sisters in need throughout the world.
That's all well and good, but the more I think about it, the more I've come to believe that chronic poverty is much about ATTITUDES as it is about lack of resources. The feelings and beliefs people have about what it means to have "enough" contribute to the social structures and policies we create.
It helps when I share my money. But I think it may be even more important to be willing to examine my values, behavior, and interactions with others at all levels of the economic spectrum in terms of what I have, what I use, what I share in order to come to terms in new ways with what it means to be a brother and a sister in this world.
For nearly three years I worked as the Executive Director of an organization called HELPLINE, an emergency intervention non-profit agency in Walla Walla WA. The mission of that organization is to: Affirm the Worth of Every Person, Address the Needs of Individuals, Families & our community; and Advocate for Positive Life Transformation.
I helped craft that mission statement and design the programs that carried it out. I've changed jobs twice since then. That doesn't mean I've changed my desire to make a difference in the world.
While reading Christina's Blog (one of Pappa Herman's links)I found info on the ONE campaign to end poverty.
I was appalled by my initial reaction...my mind closed down at the idea of ENDING poverty - wishing longingly that were possible, but mostly believing "for the poor always ye have with you" (John 12:8)
I think that when we start with the assumption that poverty is an inevitable part of life, like gravity, it serves to get us off the hook for taking any serious action. We may talk about it, act concerned, do some little project here and there to make ourselves feel better. But to really step out of our comfort zones and get SERIOUS about ENDING POVERTY we have to begin with the belief that it is possible to do so.
So today I'm doing lots of thinking about my assumptions, opinions and attitudes regarding poverty. I am considering ways that I can change my heart and my mind to become more ready to be used as a catalyst for positive change.
This isn't about donating to charity. Charities do a lot of good work. But this is about working to shake up the social structure as we know it. This is about pouring out more DIGNITY to my homeless brothers and sisters and reshaping what meaning we give to having a lot or having less.
I don't think ENDING POVERTY means everyone has the same kind of house or equal amounts of money in the bank. I think ending poverty means NO ONE is treated with derision or contempt for having less and EVERYONE has access to clean water, sufficient food, and a safe place to sleep. There will still be differences. But I believe we CAN change what it means and in so doing how we act towards others.
I will get involved in causes, to be sure. But I start with me. I start with my own heart. That may take the biggest leap of all.