Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Beyond Helplessness: Steps Against Poverty

LLin Montmartre

On Sunday, our church did an interesting exercise in discernment. We each received a card, then wrote what we thought God might be saying to our church, how we should be spending our time and resources. Then we shared these cards with the people sitting next to us. And the ushers collected all the cards, for the elders and deacons to look at.

My card said that we should care for the voiceless through structural and organizational approaches— living simply, taking care of creation, influencing policy. The woman next to me shared her card. It said we should care for the imprisoned and the ill.

We discussed that a comprehensive solution is needed, when it comes to the issue of the voiceless, the needy: prevention, intervention, and care. In essence, we agreed that we both have similar goals, though we each have interest and expertise in a different aspect of the solution. Clearly, I'm more the organizational type, not the nurse and the nurturer.

That's why, if I had it to do over again, I might choose to be an economist. They influence policy. Then I could say things like this, from Joseph Stiglitz...

In my years at the World Bank, I came to understand why there was such discontent with the way globalization was proceeding. Though development was possible, it was clear that it was not inevitable. I had seen countries where poverty was increasing rather than decreasing, and I had seen what that meant— not just in statistics but in the lives of the people. (Making Globalization Work)

Or I could write (and people might even pay attention) a book like The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs, and open it by saying, as he did...

This book is about ending poverty in our time. It is not a forecast. I am not predicting what will happen, only explaining what can happen.

I might argue with myself by also hanging out with the impressive group that put together Alternatives to Economic Globalization. This group advocates for anti-globalization, strongly urging a local economy approach as the more compassionate and effective way to eradicate poverty.

But I am just me. I'm probably never going to be an economist. The odds predict that. Still, I can read and I can think about the implications of these various approaches to issues of poverty.

And I can live my life simply, care for my environment, consider whether genetic engineering of something as critical as wheat is wise and ultimately helpful or harmful to the poor (and put my little grocery dollars towards or away from genetically-engineered foods... oh the power of the grocery shopper!)

I can write. That I can certainly do. I can promote a book like Harvest of Hope: Stories of Life-Changing Gifts, that shows we needn't be helpless in the face of poverty (There are things I can do. There are things you can do. Even small things that make a big difference.)

As Bono has said, in the introduction to Sachs' book, We can be the generation that no longer accepts that an accident of latitude determines whether a child lives or dies— but will we be that generation?

I like the way he puts that. We are in this together. Some of us are prevention people, some intervention people, some care givers. I've found my place, begun to accept who I am. It took time. It is still in progress even. What kind of place is yours?

LL and Little-One Walking in MontMarte photo, by L.L. Barkat.


The High Calling's Blog Action Day is Coming

LL's We're in This Together

Laure's simple yet profound poem

Ann's moving I Repent

Ruth's practical Blog Action Day


LL's Homecoming, for my baby niece

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Blogger TAMI said...

Thank you for this post and the many links therein.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Laure said...

L.L. this post stirred me. i am a caregiver. i listen with people as they tell their stories.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, L.L. Yes, we need to take steps one at a time. Only then will we get anywhere in this.

10:04 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

"There are things I can do. There are things you can do. Even small things that make a big difference." Thank you for reminding us.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

Things we can do whether we walk beautiful MontMarte... or just here.

Yes, true, economists may influence policy... but storytellers influence hearts, wherever they walk.

Thank you for stoking mine with this one.

All's grace,

10:37 AM  
Blogger Jenny Jill said...

Since I am coordinating a Cardiovascular Health Awareness Program (CHAP) activity, I have appreciated my family, home, resources available to me. My husband delivers Meals on Wheels once a week. He meets people who have dementia, gangrene requiring amputation, and other comorbidities.
Many people adopt their neighbours, this is the spirit of those who care. Mostly, it is prevention that will make a difference: education and awareness. A whole village ought to raise a village.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Rebekah said...

Thank you for this. I think about the voiceless so often and pray for them, but I need to take more steps, bigger steps.

11:27 AM  
Blogger RissaRoo said...

Amen! You inspire me. Thanks for all the book suggestions, what a great place to start!

12:52 PM  
Blogger kirsten said...

thank you for the post about this, and the links to other resources (you are so good about this). there is a grassroots group here in bellingham that advocates local buying. their tagline actually reads: "think globally, act locally." maybe they too have reasoned that our dollars are best invested locally, and that we can make choices and steps daily toward eradicating poverty in our lifetime.

p.s. i love how bono uses his position as a rockstar/celebrity to advocate for the eradication of poverty in our lifetime. when he talks about it, i can see it and believe it can be done.

4:45 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Tami... most welcome. :)

Laure... are you an actual caregiver... I mean, is that your job? Or is it that you have this as your vocation? Either way, a beautiful thing.

Ted... sometimes I wonder what holds us back, when each step is such a small thing after all.

Yvonne... welcome! Do you have a blog? I couldn't click through from your link. I guess I need to remind myself once in a while. Life's challenges sometimes feel so big.

Ann... yes, yes! So I can read the economists and perhaps translate into common language. I could be happy with that.

Jenny... I'm always amazed at your energy and reach!

Rebekah... oh my, yes, you mention something I left out. Prayer! There is that too, a needful thing.

Rissa... I don't know, I just love to read this kind of stuff. It's fun when I find others who like to also. :)

Kirsten... so glad you mentioned that. I tried to expand over at Green Inventions, because I think this stuff about prevention seems so amorphous. But it's intimately connected to our lifestyles and simple choices we have great control over. And, yes, you gotta love that Bono for this! :)

5:44 PM  
Blogger Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I'm not sure which of those labels apply to me. I like to take small concrete actions that allow me to stay behind the scenes--support a child overseas, buy cans for the food pantry, knit for the homeless. I guess those are "anonymous caregiver" actions, if there is such a thing. I'm not much interested in the instutional end of the problem.

6:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once you realize that behind every food item and product out there are real, live people, voting with your dollars becomes one of the most important things you can do. The hub and I have committed to buying local, fair made, organic, previously owned, etc., to reflect our value and respect for all human life, no matter what country they live in. Walking my puppy several times a day has allowed me to interact with people I probably never would have before, becoming just a bit of Light to them as I do so. We surely can ALL make a difference, even if we are doing nothing 'great'.
(linked to your blog from alivening, thank you!)

7:31 PM  
Blogger Laure said...

an actual caregiver by profession? no. i'm in the first year of a spiritual formation/direction program. i'm uncertain as to what that will mean when i'm on the other side of it. but day to day i listen to what people say ... i listen deep and wide.

11:04 PM  
Blogger Lynet said...

That's a really inspiring post, LL.

It's funny, actually -- I always went for the sciences rather than economics on grounds that making money isn't half as interesting as discovering the world, but the current state of the world has made me realise that actually, economics can be a really important aspect of understanding the common good.

12:08 AM  
OpenID spaghettipie said...

Great thoughts, as usual. And such an important reminder that we all can do something.

12:50 AM  
Blogger Nikki said...

This post brought to mind a story told about St. Theophan the Recluse (Theophan Zatvornik, 1815-1894):

St. Theophan the Recluse wrote to a young girl: "You ask, 'Must one do something?' Of course one must! And do whatever comes along - in your circle of friends and in your surroundings - and believe that this is and will be your real work. More will not be demanded of you. It is a great misconception to think, whether for the sake of heaven or, as the modernists put it, to 'make one's mark on humanity,' that one must undertake great, reverberating tasks. Not at all."

He goes on to say, essentially, that everything you do simply must be done in accordance with God's will, and that what God has planned for you will present itself, so that every moment and every encounter is an opportunity to do His will.

I loved this story because it reminded me that my inability to do great things does not excuse me from responsibility for all of the little things I can do. I cannot eradicate suffering or hunger. I cannot end war. I cannot topple governments or revolutionize the world. I can do a whole lot of mundane things every day that go some of that distance towards the great things God may be choosing to do through the small acts of all of His children.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Billy Coffey said...

A wonderful and inspiring post, as always.

1:02 PM  
Blogger GratefulinGA said...

LL, before i say anything else -your book arrived from Amazon today and i'm looking forward to starting it tonight.

As to your post, more of a theme that has been coloring every area of my life for almost 2 years now.

i kind of spelled my thoughts on these issues over here ( http://gratefulinga.blogspot.com/2008/09/do-be-do-be-do.html )
(when choosing between abbreviating that post or just referring, I opted for the later...not wanting to be rude or trying to plug my blog...just the best way to share)

The projects and events discussed over there are not a one time only deal-this is a new and constant direction our fellowship is going.

I have never felt so humbled and in awe wondering at the enormity of what we may be doing with our local body and that God is allowing us, these busted vessels to carry His Living water.

If the Church actually did step up to the plate and quite thinking this is for others to solve, whoa! I can't even imagine...but do believe it is possible...starting with me...such as i am.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Talkin' Texan said...

Well said. May we all search and find the place in our little corner of the world where we can make a difference.

4:44 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Ruth... I'm thinking there's room for plenty more in any of the areas of need: prevention, intervention or care. Nice to see your work in care!

Jen... yes. Money really is power. Even for those who feel like they don't have much of it. I loved your comment here and on Green Inventions. And I'd love to see your place!

Laure... and of course you care for our hearts by giving voice to the things we sometimes cannot... through your beautiful poetry.

Lynet... this is one of those things I wish I'd learned a long time ago. But you... you're still making decisions about direction, yes? The world could use such an ethical, compassionate economist as you.

Spaghetti... indeed. I'm thinking we all do something whether we know it or not. Something to exacerbate or relieve the problems. I wonder if any of us could really claim to be neutral?

Nikki... that is a GREAT quote. Oh, how I've missed your steady voice here. :)

Billy... too kind. :)

Grateful... I hope you enjoy the book. :) As for the church, yes, what power we have if we come together even in small ways.

Talkin' Texan... I wonder sometimes why we forget to search. Is life too busy? Are we afraid? What happens... (That's just me... always so many questions.)

5:57 PM  
Anonymous a.anj said...

(Re:Summer Rain, Praise the Lord!!!)

Thanks for this. It's really Not too big a thing, huh?

7:14 PM  
Blogger One More Writer said...

What I like most about your thoughts on this subject is the recognition that we all have a different part to play, a different area of expertise and interest. So many times people assume their exact focus should be everyone's sole focus, but that misses the point that we have all been gifted and called by God to do our unique part. When all the parts work, we have a functioning whole and things can be accomplished.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Lynne said...

what an inspirational post, and what a wonderful way to share in your church. Think your elders would mind if we "borrowed" it to use in the little church my husband leads, thousands of miles away from you (phisically, but probably not spiritually) in South Africa.

3:52 AM  
Blogger SuzyQ said...

A lovely thoughtful post :0)
I guess I'm a caregiver at heart.
Like you say, and its so important to realise this, everyone has their own role and gift. WE all have something aluable and special to offer. Small steps, lots of small steps work together to make the biggest changes.
Blessings and Peace :0)

5:34 PM  

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