“Poverty sucks,” my friend said to me.
From the second story of another friend’s home, with our eyes fixed upon the magazine perfect space, my friend whispered those two little words.
(I am going to stop right here and offer an apology for using the word sucks. I realize it may offend some of you. And because I want you to be able to hear the rest of this story, I will repeat it sparingly. I ask that you accept my sincere apologies. And please continue reading.)
My friend offered the punchy little duo a bit tongue in cheek. At the time, neither of us were living in poverty. But our lives, nor our homes were camera ready or waiting for the photo shoot of Southern Living. But the home in which we were standing was. Thus, the little bit of snarky.
But the spirit in which she quipped the two-word punch didn’t negate its truth. Poverty does indeed suck.
I know. Because I have known poverty. And I am aware of the impression it leaves on the human heart. Specifically, I know the marks it left on my own heart. And though God has done remarkable work in me, I believe He has purposefully left remnants behind. Remnants to serve as cues or prompts.
And can you guess what might expose one of those remnants? Cold weather!! Prompting a warm wave of gratitude.
When the nights are cold, colder than usual, I pull back my covers and climb into my bed, softly speaking a prayer aloud. “Lord, thank you for my warm bed and my warm home. May I never, ever take for granted these things.” Because there was a time when I didn’t know that warmth.
Count it all joy, my brothers,[a] when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.JAMES 1:2-4
Cold weather also cues my compassion.
While my current Facebook feed is filled with photos of my friends frolicking in the faux snow, (that was a mouthful, but I couldn’t stop myself!) I recognize it’s not fun for everyone. For many of us, our environments can usually soothe the bite of bitter cold. But that isn’t the reality for millions of people right now. It isn’t the reality for many on an ordinary day. And it wasn’t always my reality.
Yes, poverty lingers in my heart and my mind. Too many times it has informed my decisions. Poorly informed my decisions. And too often it has told me I am not good enough. It gave shame a comfortable place to live.
It’s these remnants of poverty that move me toward compassion, providing me a lens through which I see others. The world. Oh, the idealist in me wants to right all the wrongs!! Change things. Change people. And I have swung back and forth between closing off my heart because I couldn’t change it all, and jumping in the deep end without my floaties, trying to change the world.
Sadly, my capacity for creating change has never matched my heart’s level of compassion.
I wanted my mark to be extraordinary. But here I sit, pounding out words on a keyboard instead. Ordinary words.
So, why all this talk about poverty and compassion in the middle of an artic blast that blew past its boundaries? It’s an opportunity for us to give our faith some hands and feet. For our compassion to find expression.
- Pray. I know. Praying seems passive. But it should be first on our plan of action. In prayer, I am surrendering my need to control things. To make things okay. To make them better. Prayer says, “I know you can,” and “I trust You will do what is ultimately best.”
- After you pray, give. Find a trustworthy, local, boots on the ground organization doing the hard work and make a donation. (I just made a donation to ARCH, Acadiana Regional Coalition for Homelessness and Housing.) They are on the ground, housing and feeding people in need in my city! Find an organization where you live. Where your friends live. Where your family lives. And help them do what they do best.
- Pray again. Without ceasing. Because when I feel the need to do something to help, and there is nothing I can do to reach those in need, my God sees and knows. He is not bound by time or place or an artic blast beyond its own borders. I must trust that God still moves.
- Pray for the people whose job it is to restore electricity. They are husbands, dads, and sons. Pray for those in leadership. Yes the ones you voted for and the ones you did not. God is able.
- And pray for those who are inconvenienced and those who are in desperate situations. For their endurance. Their patience. And for miracles.
Let me repeat, poverty sucks. But today I am grateful for its remnants that cultivate my own compassion.
Love to you all.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-4