Friday, July 1, 2016

What Does It REALLY Mean to Help Those Living in Poverty?

The last 36 hours have brought some interesting revelations our way. Nothing earth shattering or tragic exactly, just disheartening. The saying, "No good deed goes unpunished," comes to mind but is overly dramatic. Trying to help people is largely a thankless endeavor at times. I told a friend and mentor today that throwing money at people's problems just seems to exacerbate their problems. It seems that the best (only) way to really make an impact on the lives of others is to love them, teach them about Jesus, help them however you can to seek Him and His way of life. That's it. 

Problems are more complex when others are hungry, homeless, unclothed, etc. Basic needs must be met before a person can seek deeper relationship and spiritual matters. But throwing money at problems just seems to delay the inevitable.  I once paid a lot of money to keep someone's utilities on and six months later, the individual was right back to having the utilities cut off and "no one to help them."   I politely shared that I could not pay again.   

The same seems to be true whether paying utilities, rent, daycare, or buying food.  The crisis is avoided for a month, or two, or six, but ultimately, the story unfolds with disaster striking the previously "helped" individual.  

It feels like the equivalent of beating one's head against a brick wall in order to rid oneself of a headache.  It just seems to cause more problems in the long run.  It feels like I have only enabled others to be irresponsible.   It feels bad to think that I really believed I was helping a person through a hard situation and that it was a turning point for them and then later find out it is apparently a way of life; that is, living from from crisis to crisis is a way of life.   It seems to be the norm for those living in poverty in the U.S.  

There are studies about this sort of social phenomenon; there are programs to help the middle class and the upper class to understand why our friends in poverty live this way.  There are programs to help those living in poverty to find their way to different thinking in order to achieve different outcomes.   

It just seems that the changes come slowly once a person takes the class.  It's a one step forward and three steps back process.   I can relate in some ways, for instance, in my quest to lose weight.  

And I don't mean to imply I am above some of the same issues.  I have debt I should not have.   I have the desire to just not pay the bills and just have fun some months.   But I can see the outcome of making a decision like that; and I don't desire to be without food, utilities, a place to live, gas for my car, or having creditors hound me for hours on end.   I have lived in poverty as a young 20-something wife and mother/ single mom.  I praise God for putting me in the "family of origin" that I was born into.   My parents taught me to create a stable home for my kids, pay my bills,  that fun comes after responsibilities are met.   The funny thing is, I don't remember ever having a discussion about these things.   I can remember my mother laughing at me when as a very young child, she told me one day she didn't have the money to buy me the toy I requested.  My response was, "Just write a check for it Mama."   She laughed and related, "That's not how it works."   But by modeling the art of living within their means, my parents raised me to pay my bills and at times to do without. 

During my single mom days, my priorities were simple on paydays:  rent, daycare, utilities, gas/oil, groceries, doctors, repeat....   It was a never-ending cycle which made me weary.   Occasionally we had money for new clothes and shoes.   Sometimes, the doctor had to wait a bit longer for full payment.   But we survived.  My kids felt loved and I don't think they realized they did without until they were older.  We had fun together; we walked a few blocks to the playground down the street.  Very occasionally, we got to go to McDonald's or Burger King for supper.   They had clothes, toys, a house to live in that was warm in winter and cool in summer.  And they had bedtime stories and goodnight kisses.  They had a mom who checked their homework and signed their folders, and reviewed sight words with them.   We managed life.   It wasn't easy but it was necessary.  They deserved the stability; I deserved the stability.   

I know children who don't live with that stability and it's heartbreaking.   I wish there were simple answers. 

No comments:

Post a Comment