Today I have the honor of a guest blogger.
I guess the process started a year or so ago, but my friend, Joey Espinosa, felt led to pack his life and family up and move to the lower part of South Carolina to Allendale County, which is a part of the Corridor of Shame. Allendale is, per capita, the poorest part of the state. He was living in the upstate and the children’s pastor of my church. God moved him in the direction of going to live out his faith and restart a Boys and Girls Club in Allendale. The whole story is amazing, and you can find out more on his blog, Mission: Allendale. Additionally he has another blog about faith and parenting called A Different Way.
When we think about poverty, we have to move beyond considering the lack of resources. Generational poverty is also about the lack of opportunities.
Our Basic Desire
Years ago, when I had a “real” job, my co-workers and I were having a discussion about a war going on in another part of the world. It was a divided group, with some very strong opinions from both ends of the political spectrum. As you can imagine, the conversation was going nowhere fast.
After trying to stay out of the fracas, I felt like I had to say something, to redirect the issue. “You know what I think about? That there is some dad in that country with kids my age. He really doesn’t care about which side is right or wrong. He’s just trying to provide for his family, so his kids can grow up safe, healthy, and educated.”
No matter what social status you are in, everyone has the common bond of wanting a chance. For some of us, it’s the opportunity to buy more and better stuff. For others, it’s the opportunity for a more fulfilling job, or a way to better use their gifts. And for many people in the world (including the USA), they
merely want opportunities to obtain basic needs for their families, like food, shelter, and health care.
When I pause and reflect, something just isn’t right about many of the imbalances we see. And it’s not so much the imbalance of consumable resources, but the imbalance of opportunities.
Imbalance of Opportunities
This past summer, a few high school students from Greenville lived with a friend in the Allendale area, and they also spent a handful of nights with us.
Late in July, one of the boys came to me in the morning and calmly informed me that his ear hurt. I told him that it would probably feel better later. But my wife (the compassionate mom) knew what it was: an ear infection.
After trying to contact his mom (unsuccessfully) and trying to figure out if he had insurance or Medicaid (“I don’t know”), my wife took him to a local clinic.
Joanna explained to the medical staff the situation, and he received the attention he needed. The payment was based on a sliding scale, and was a trivial amount (for us).
But the part that stood out was having to pay $8 for the prescription drug amoxicillin. Why did this irk us? Because in Greenville, this drug would be free at a Publix pharmacy.
So, in the most under-resourced part of the state (Allendale), people pay $8 or more for a particular medicine. And in one of the wealthiest areas in the state (Greenville), you can get it for free.
Opportunities in Education
How many more advanced placement (AP) classes do you think are available in the average school in Greenville or Columbia, compared to Allendale? Surely there are children with above-average intelligence and motivation in this area.
How are kids going to consistently develop relationships of trust with educators in this school district, with the highest teacher turnover ratio, and where half of the schools have new principals in 2011?
We are seeing a negative trend of the imbalance in many areas. Not only have suburban schools gained advantages over urban ones, but they tend to hoard these advantages. Under-resourced schools become more under-resourced, comparatively.
“I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice”
I am not pushing for socialism or communism. I’m not proposing mandatory wealth distribution. But I am saying that our hearts need to be stirred and softened. We need to be moved to take action when we see the scarcity of opportunity in areas of generational poverty.
Consider what your life would be like if you were in their shoes. What resources would you need? What opportunities?
Try not to think of those in poverty as a group, as in “What they need is . . .” Consider the individuals, the families. For, however much of little that you have, there is always someone else worse off, who just needs a chance.
So, what do you think? I believe there is STRONG biblical evidence that when it is all said and done, what we are going to be judged most for in the end is what we did concerning those less fortunate, specicially the extreme poor, those in generational poverty because of a lack of opportunities, orphans, and widows. We have “pet sins” in the Amercan Church. We like to pick on premarital sex, drunkedness, and homosexuality…but we leave out what it seems the God holds more important, taking care of each other. Never donating time and money to helping give those in need a hand up is not often talked about as a sin, but it is. Throughout the Old and New Testament, this is one thing that comes up more than anything else. How did you treat the poor, widows, orphans. What did you do about it?
I am not suggesting that everyone do what Joey and his family did, but you need to do something. Donate some time (not just money) to a cause for those in generational poverty. Pray about it. Find something. Do it. And then see if you don’t start to see God start to change you.