God stands up to open heaven’s court. He pronounces judgment on the judges. 2 How long will you judges refuse to listen to the evidence? How long will you shower special favors on the wicked? 3 Give fair judgment to the poor man, the afflicted, the fatherless, the destitute. 4 Rescue the poor and helpless from the grasp of evil men. 5 But you are so foolish and so ignorant! Because you are in darkness, all the foundations of society are shaken to the core. 6 I have called you all “gods” and “sons of the Most High.” 7 But in death you are mere men. You will fall as any prince—for all must die. 8 Stand up, O God, and judge the earth. For all of it belongs to you. All nations are in your hands. Psalm 82 (TLB)
For the past 100 days, I have focused my time and energy helping an underprivileged community across the river to get back upon its feet. A prospective leader in that community noticed the desperation of the people and called upon her network to come together to relieve the suffering. After praying about the issue, the Spirit led me to respond to the call. He reminded me of the many blessing that have been bestowed upon me and asked me to use my God-given talents to help. He said, “although you live in a rich nation, ‘You will always have the poor among you’…Matthew 26:11.”
The experience exposed me to things I had only seen in developing countries. Through the perspective of the prospective leader, I saw abject poverty of spirit, many without the basic provisions to sustain life, and levels of ignorance I did not know existed. It was humbling! I was then called to become more involved. I simply started doing the small things that many people overlook such as cooking meals for the highly active folks on the leader’s team who were in the field doing the grass roots work. I learned incredible lessons from overhearing their planning and strategy activities. Seeing the team put the plans into action and watching the results coming to fruition to make better conditions for His people was clear and convincing evidence that God was in control of something I had the great privilege to be a part of.
While giving the community leader a ride home one night, she spoke to me with a heaviness in her voice. She had attended an event earlier in the day and was surprised at the lack of understanding others in the community had about the needs of the poor that were right before their eyes. She said the people gathered at the event and asked questions because they were unsettled about having anything other than market-rate housing in their neighborhood. She gave her perspective on the need for affordable and low income housing. She also explained that solutions surrounding housing in the neighborhood must include the biblical truth that the poor will always be among us. The people rejected the notion because they were not on any type of public assistance and had recently become first time homeowners. She was amazed at their lack of empathy and compassion considering the amount of assistance they had received to buy their first house, forgetting that assistance is the same thing the poor need as well. She let the home owners know that she is aware that the housing situation is a tricky one. She told them everyone wants an affordable place to live. She admitted to her own blessings of owning a home in the neighborhood and asked for their understanding of the neighbors who have not realized their housing dream yet. She ended her address with letting them know that pushing the poor out is not a part of the answer.
I am amazed at her conviction and her will to continue even though the struggle is fierce! The conversation we had has been on my mind since we had it. Deep thoughts usually move me into action. So, I am calling you into action with me. Don’t rely on the census, use your senses. Here are my asks:
1. The silence of poverty can be deafening. Vote for change so your voice can be heard.
2. Poverty is a blinding flash of the obvious. When you see something, do something. Donate new or gently used items to your community outreach center. Most churches accept them.
3. Hunger tastes like nothing. Donate to your local food pantry.
4. Hearing about hunger can be heartbreaking. Don’t just listen, touch someone with a food basket or gift card for groceries.
5. It stinks to be hungry and to not have the basic things you need. Sniff out human suffering in your community, and lend a hand.
The smallest things done with a smile can make a huge difference and give people the basic human dignity and respect they deserve. Connecting with people, rather than pushing them away, is how a positive difference is made in communities. I know it because I’ve seen it, and I do it. If you feel me, please join me! “Without community service, we would not have a strong quality of life. It’s important to the person who serves as well as the recipient. It’s the way in which we ourselves grow and develop.” – Dorothy Height