Last night, I joined conference organizer, Joe Ceci along with keynote speaker, Tony Martin for dinner and we talked about -- how do you end poverty?
In some ways, the question is egotistical on our part -- I cannot 'end' something in your life without your consent, and if you don't believe it can 'end' all my ranting and raving and coercive dialogue will do nothing to end what I perceive to be the issue in your life.
Yet, it is a question that must be asked. How do we end poverty? Because poverty keeps people down. Or, maybe the question has to be asked differently? How do provide opportunities for people to rise above the poverty line?
Perhaps the answers begins with ending the things we do to contribute to poverty and the existence of 'the line'.
Poverty is like an addiction. It wears you down. It ladens you with shame. You spend so much time grinding your way through the day, there is no energy to 'be' anything other than tired. Tired of the drag. Of the inertia, the numbing drain of fighting for one more dime, one more bit of a break to stretch the dollars to meet the dates flying by on the calendar. And in that tired place, there is no sense of hope, of tomorrow will be a better day. There is no relief from living below the poverty line.
When you put your children to bed and lay awake all night worrying about the fact there's nothing to feed them for breakfast, you don't have much room for optimism. You know their stomachs will not be filled with 'hoping' the cupboard will be full in the morning.
How do we end poverty? Perhaps, we need to begin with asking ourselves, What do I do to help create and/or sustain it? And then, look deep to determine, how do I change what I'm doing that keeps people in their poverty stricken place?
Reality is, we, the askers, contribute to creating poverty in our world -- if only for the simple reason, many of us don't hold our governments accountable for what they do with our tax dollars to relieve the suffering of our neighbours. If we don't identify what we are dong to contribute to rising poverty levels in our cities and communities, we really can't change what we're doing.
So, in an effort to understand where and how I contribute to poverty in my community, I must start with a few random statements and questions on my ideas/feelings/thoughts on poverty so that I can understand -- what I know about the issues surrounding poverty and where I stand to create change:
- I do not like being poor. Does anyone?
- I've never been 'poor' as in 'living in poverty'. I have been poor as in -- no money. Lost everything. Do I really understand the fear, sorrow, terror of a mother who can't give her child breakfast? When my cupboards are full, does that mean everybody else's are too? (and that's a rhetorical question...)
- Economic poverty is different than emotional/spiritual poverty. Economic poverty is externally generated. Emotional/spiritual poverty comes from within -- but is this a chicken and an egg thing? Does economic poverty leave you emotionally drained so that you have nothing left to feed your spirit? OR If you're born into poverty does that mean you have little emotional/spiritual resiliency to withstand the challenges of a poverty-riddled life?
- We can stop what we're doing to contribute to creating poverty. We can't end poverty in someone's life without their consent. How do we get consent when we continue to do the things we do that contribute to poverty in the first place? OR is the question really -- How do we engage people suffering from poverty in the conversation when they can't afford the time or even the bus fare to get to the meeting?
- If people living in poverty want what we have, and what we have is contributing to poverty in our world, if they get it will there be more, or less, poverty in our world? For example -- employers want 'cheap' labour to keep the cost of goods down, or to increase their margins. Not paying a living wage keeps people in poverty.... and the circle continues. For example.... affordable housing builds have been cancelled due to community opposition -- what are we afraid of? Poverty is contagious?
- Poverty is very much a 'feminine' issue in that women are more likely to be poor, earn less than men (66% on avg of what men earn in Alberta), and when women experience poverty, so do their children.
- The feminization of poverty, as a lived reality, represents something larger than simply a lack of income for a state of financial need for women. while the very definition of poverty implies the inability to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, or shelter, being poor also implies the absence of choice, the denial of opportunity, the inability to achieve life goals, and ultimately the loss of hope. Megan Thibos et al. (2007) The feminization of poverty.