Thursday, January 26, 2012

Elements of Community - Beautified View of the Poor

I have a friend who is poor. I'm probably not allowed to write that, but I think it's a fair representation of how most of you who are reading this blog would assess him financially. Now, he's not miserable, beggarly or destitute - just poor. When I first met him, he and his wife lived off about US $240 per month. His home has unpainted, cement walls that lack some windows. His living room is about the size of a walk-in closet, and the small rotating fan that they use at night in their Africa-hot bedroom is considered a luxury. He'll take a pair of shoes that I'm throwing out, wear them for a year, and then, when they are completely worn through, fashion some type of sandal out of them for fishing. I am blessed to call him my friend.

Given my relationship with this man, you think I would suffer some sweeping reform in my view of the poor. But, I find in myself the same tendency all too pervasive in our culture to classify the indigent in one of two categories - nuisance or charity project. The nuisances are blown off with an averted glance, while charity projects are offered spare change and pity. I live in the tension created by entitlement, societal greed and personal indifference pitted against Jesus' recognition of the blessedness of the poor. Where is the release valve?

The only answer I see is a beautified view of the poor. We have to move beyond our conditioned responses of either a cold shoulder or a hot meal. The poor must have a place with us. There must be room for relationship. For it is through relationship that we can communicate of the provision of God in their lives and they can remind us of our condition before God. In this way, we perceive that we are far more bound with them than we feel comfortable admitting. Then, suddenly, the they and the we in this conversation no longer makes sense. This is what we are striving for in the Sombra Road house.   

1 comment:

Brea said...

Beautifully expressed, Jeremy. I've read a book called When Helping Hurts that I think addresses these issues well and practically. If you haven't read it, I recommend it highly!