blog action day: the reality of poverty
October 15, 2008
I live in South Africa. I drive by beggar at everyrobot in the eastern side of Pretoria. This is reality. As one of my American friends who recently moved here said: “I can’t give to everyone”. I can’t. Yeah, mother Theresa did say that if you can’t feed a hundred, then feed one, and yes, she did know about poverty. My reality might be what causes me to write something which might not be expected from your typical 1984-born liberal…
I have high hopes for the world. I think that better alternatives than our current Capitalist system must be found. I think this would help a lot of people. But my South African reality tells me that many don’t want our help. The sickness of poverty, as we sometimes talk about round here, causes people to become victims of themselves, and then wait upon the world to get them out of poverty. A big business-man and committed Christian in our congregation told us the other day that he started giving out business cards to beggars on the streets, telling them to send him a CV, cause he has a job for them. He must have given out 1000 cards by now (as I said, there is a lot of beggars round here), and not one came back to him.
Sometimes I just wanna give a R5 coin, sometimes I do. Sometimes I feel better, most of the times I remember my social worker friend from the inner-city, who does amazing things with the poor, telling me that the one thing you never so, is give out money.
The reality of poverty is that sometimes it is not about a lack of money! Sometimes it’s about a lack of self-respect, a lack passion for change. Money will be needed to change this around, but money will not be enough. It will be about relations with the poor… and don’t forget the kids! Never forget the kids! One by one we will need to help these kids rise out of their circumstances before it’s too late. Before the sickness hits them too. Remember that every kid that grows up with the idea that the reality of poverty can’t be changed, and that (s)he might as well keep on living this way, becomes another adult who carries the sickness forward.
So, I’m not saying that the reality of poverty won’t be changes. Just that it’s gonna be much more difficult than pushing money towards the South. It is calling us to change a culture, both the consumerist culture of the West, the culture in which we lock ourselves behind high walls to keep the poor out of our lives, as well as the culture of the poor, who prefer not taking responsibility for life… there is hope, there is points of light where for some poverty is just the lack of money, maybe we can start by changing things for them as well.