Reflections on poverty

There are many times I want to lash out and hurt people. I struggle with my split-second rage every day. Yet I have seen - and felt - the devastating effects of releasing these emotions on people, whether or not they are deserving of it.

Recently, I have seen several posts and reposts denouncing the actions and assumed motives of the poor. I struggle with my reaction to these posts - I have been that poor person; I have struggled to retain my dignity as I am forced to beg for help for the sake of my children.

I have sat in the doctor's office at Partners for Healing, trying to get help for myself and my two children when we had no insurance, as the nurse self-righteously told me that I should get my tubes tied for the crime of being poor and having children. She had no idea that I had just thown away my financial independence when I started to divorce a man that was leaving bruises on myself and my kids. She did not take the time to realize how rude and inappropriate her words were.

Another time, my car broke down and I was blessed to be given a car by church. Yet I was not involved in any part of the process of picking out the vehicle - all my decisions were taken away from me. I suppose they were trying to be kind and exciting when they bought a 2-door red sporty car for a divorcing mother with 2 kids, and I tried to be properly grateful and excited. However, all I could see in my mind was the looks of disapproval from my community as I drove up in this flashy car to get help for myself and my kids, and the prejudice I would receive from prospective employers that saw this attention-seeking vehicle

I struggle between the need to say something and the need to not create a scene. The need to be nice and the need to be honest. Most recently, I tried again to find a balance between these two urges when I saw yet another Facebook rant from - ironically enough - one of the people who helped purchase my flashy car.

I cannot remember exactly what the person wrote, and I would not repost it without his permission. However, I do remember that the post was full of scorn and derision aimed at a man sitting at a local gas station with a sign asking for help - simply because the man had the audacity to be playing on a smartphone while sitting and waiting for "pity from passersby".  The person posting the message assumed that this smartphone was currently active, and he berated the man for spending money on a smartphone then begging for money from others.

I wanted to rant and rave about my car and the humiliations it brought. I wanted to mention how many job opportunities I probably lost because of stupidity like this because of that car. I wanted to rip him up one side and down the other for the injustice and irony of this man, this professed Christian, judging another man so harshly while not taking the time to find out what was really going on.

Instead, I took a deep breath...and I simply stated that the phone could have been a gift, or could be one that has been turned off previously and the man is simply playing a game that was previously downloaded. I vented my ire slightly by mentioning that pity does not have any place in helping people.

Did I respond correctly? I don't know. Perhaps I did more damage than good. Perhaps I helped someone else learn how to speak out. Or perhaps, hopefully, I opened a thought process in this person to help them grow from the experience.

What I do know is that I pray for them...I pray for the man that is seeking help, and I pray for the people who have the opportunity to help him. I pray that the man will have the strength to withstand prejudice; that he will find the right words to say to the right people to get a hand up instead of just a hand out. I pray that his heart will not be hardened too much by the judgment he sees in other people's eyes.

I pray for the people who pass him by. I pray that they will not pity him. I pray that they will have compassion for him. I pray that they will allow him his dignity and help him learn how to help himselves. I pray that they will only give what they can afford; too often, the people who have the most compassion are the ones that can least afford it. They have compassion because they understand the heartache and indignity of being so wretchedly poor. I pray that they will not harden their hearts just because some people will abuse the system - that they will allow the Lord to deal with the crooks, and that they will allow the Lord to help them in their decisions of who to help and how to help them.

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