Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Poor

Poor people make me uncomfortable.

Or scared.

Or uncomfortable and scared.

We all have things that make us uncomfortable.  Like, being in the backseat of a car when the two people in the front seat are arguing.  Or trying to find the right words to say to a friend who has just had someone they love die.  Or public speaking.

Well, poor people make me feel that way at times.

Poor people, you say?  Really, Shene'?  Who are you?

Well I'll tell you what I'm not...I'm not poor.  And chances are, neither are you.

Don't believe me?  Calculate it here:

Statistics don't lie.  I am richer than 99% of the world.  Yes.  NINETY-NINE percent.

I think we like to conveniently forget this sometimes.  I know I like to have pity parties every now and then and make a mental list of all of the things I am "sacrificing".  I mean, the jeans I have on are from Target and now that we live on one income, I get my haircut at Supercuts.  

And then I look around me and I look at images from around the world and I get so sick of my "iPhone, 35 pairs of shoes, full pantry" self I can barely stand it.

But then, if I am so sick of myself and my "first world problems", why do I still feel the way I do about the poor?

Well, I think we are all uncomfortable and scared of what we don't understand.  And there is a lot about poverty I don't understand.  I don't know what it is like to truly live in those circumstances.  I don't understand the underlying mindsets and behaviors of the poor.  I don't know the "rules" there. (Just like I don't know the "rules" at a celebrity "A List" party.)  Poor people are different from me.  Just read some Dr. Ruby Payne if you need some proof. 

I am scared for my kids to be around poverty.  What will they hear?  What will they see?  What will they, gasp, learn? We are zoned to an elementary school that is not one of the "nicest".  We live three streets south of a major road.  Apparently, this major road is a natural dividing line between the desirable and undesirable schools around here.   We didn't know this at first.  It certainly wasn't on the real estate listing when we bought our house. 

I am uncomfortable with how poverty makes me feel about my life too.  I feel guilty at times.  Why was I born into a loving, middle class, two parent family?  Why did I get tons of toys at Christmas?  Why did I have the opportunity to get a good education and then attend a private university?  Why me and not them?

Tonight, I felt that scared, uncomfortableness in my belly as I drove to serve Thanksgiving dinner to low-income families in another part of town.  I hate admitting that.  I mean, these people are the reason for my husband's JOB.  You know, the one that pays him the money that keeps me in the 99%. 

And then I got there, and everything I just typed flew out the door.

People can be different, and very much the same.  I passed out dessert.  Everyone likes dessert.  That was my ticket in.  I just started talking to the guests.  I talked with a mama about her six month old baby.  I complimented her pigtails, and we discussed the fact that no matter how many bows you put on a baby girl's head, someone is going to call her a boy.  I talked with another mama about the huge leftover box she was taking home, and how her son was going to eat it all in a day.  We agreed that teenage boys will eat you out of house and home.  I talked with teenagers about school, and college, and being a teacher.

People, ALL people, like to be complimented, like to talk about their kids, and like to dream of a better future. 

People like to be loved. 

I saw my daughter play with children who are from a different world than her, and she didn't have a fat clue.  She just played.   She just laughed.  And I prayed that God would give me the strength to let her go, to let my school worries go.  She is not too good to go to school with kids that don't wear Gymboree and have themed birthday parties. 

People like to be accepted. 

The majority of my teaching career has been spent in low-income schools.  Andy works for a non-profit that serves low-income families.

Remember how poor people make me uncomfortable?

Thank you God, for your sense of humor.

Thank you for giving us your best, instead of what we thought was better.  May I not be haughty and associate with the lowly. (Romans 12:16)

May I love, because You first loved me.

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