Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Poverty I

Of course I decide to undertake some serious writing on a day that started with a 7:30am appointment and ends with a Board Meeting - hopefully home by 9pm!

Not to worry as I am taking this in fairly small bites so here we go.....

By some blessing I was born into a life of comfort and ease.  We're not talking "never worry about money" ease but certainly "never worry about where your next meal is coming from" ease. Some might call this an accident or random but my faith leads me to believe I was given THIS specific life to lead.  Therefore this level of ease or comfort rests somewhat heavily on my shoulders.... while I acknowledge the blessing with gratitude I also see it as a responsibility and sometimes a burden.

I grew up as the rich, educated elite simply by virtue of my skin colour as a white south african. Helped immensely by the fact my parents both went to University and my Dad worked for Anglo American.  Big house, huge property, pool, great neighbourhood, private school, live-in domestic worker, tennis lessons, great vacations...

You are forming a picture in your mind of my white life in a colonial setting.....Sorry to shatter the image but while those things were true to some degree I was also lucky enough to have parents who were well aware of privileged and never let me think I was owed what I had or that I was even worthy of it.  I have always felt blessed or lucky.....and that much was required of me.  I always knew the other side of life in South Africa and it never sat well with my soul.

And of course in South Africa - it was all too plain to see the have-nots, the poor, the homeless, the disenfranchised, the suffering, the uneducated.....and boy did we wrestle with these issues as a family, as a community, as a church.... what to do, how to do it.....

More than that we had to examine our hearts....and ask why?

Why help?

And if the answer is because I feel guilty then nothing you do will be enough.
And if the answer is because I can then you will have to keep doing until you cannot.

So the answer has to come from a value system that says we are all the same, we are all created equal in the eyes of a creator God and though our circumstances differ, we can connect and communicate because we are all human beings.

So essentially you have to act out of love.

And that always brought me back to guilt..... because we must first love ourselves..... and I did not..... I was angry to be white and privileged and comfortable and too young to do much about it.... I didn't want the burden of my "wealth".  I had to meet my fellow south africans of all colours on a level playing field and I had to see them and hear them and walk with them and then I had to confront my heart and my prejudice and my fear and face my God and His words on this topic and only then..... could I step out with any integrity to do....to engage....to make right....to offer love. And action (I think there is another whole post on figuring out appropriate and realistic action).

And I thought that was HARD......and it was HARD....and it is HARD for those in places of such obvious, in your face, poverty and injustice. 

But I am coming to feel that living here in a beautiful BC Canada, in a beautiful home, with so much ease and comfort is HARD too.  I am restless to find the relevance and integrity of active engagement with the poor, the suffering, the hurt...... I feel immunized against that and I can justify to myself that writing a cheque takes care of business.

But it isn't doing it for me anymore.

And let's not kid ourselves that there isn't poverty and injustice and hurt right on our doorstep here in wealthy first world Canada because there is... and while by the Grace of God we may not know the heartbreak and gut wrenching misery of mothers in Somalia leaving their malnourished children on the side of the road as they seek food in a drought ravaged land, there are missing women and hungry children and addicted adults in our City and I feel the shame of that.

I do not want to raise children who feel entitled to what they have. I want them to know how blessed they are and what is therefore required of them......just as soon as I figure it out!

I think God wants more of me, from me......I want more from myself and as terrifying as that is for what it might mean, I am excited to be  reconnecting to that place in my heart that I have blithely ignored for far too long.

1 comment:

  1. great post Nicky. I think many people in our community are aware of the poverty here and it is heartbreaking when you see it in children's faces.