Many people view "the poor" (I continue to bristle at the term for a number of reasons, but that is grist for another post) as stupid, dependent, lazy and expendable.
Every time I hear or read a comment that seems headed in that direction, I realize that the source doesn't know many people who battle poverty. Low income people are like the rest of the population--you can't stereotype them. They live out their lives as unique individuals.
That said, I have noticed a creativity among the poor that is often amazing.
A few years ago a very poor woman came to one of our Resource Centers seeking assistance to pay a past due utility bill. Serving over 50,000 people annually makes it impossible for us to pay utility bills except on rare occasions.
The interviewer/case worker who visited with this woman was herself a very low-income person, as are most of our volunteers. She knew the ropes of poverty herself and came up with a great idea for the woman with the overdue light bill.
On this particular day our Thrift Store had a special sale on clothing going on--all the clothing you could stuff into a large trash bag for $1.00!
Our counselor handed the woman $2.00 out of her own pocket with the suggestion that she go to the store, purchase two large bags of clothing, return home and prepare them for sale in a yard sale to see how much money she could earn toward the payment of the overdue bill.
The woman took her advice.
About a week later, the woman returned. She located the volunteer and reported with great excitement that she had turned the $2.00 investment in clothing into more than enough to pay her bill!
She proudly repaid the $2.00 loan and went back to the Thrift Store to purchase more used clothing for another sale!
Talk about entrepreneurial!
Talk about initiative and willingness to work with what you have!
Make no mistake about it. Just because someone is poor, underemployed and unskilled for the current marketplace does not mean that they are stupid, lazy or undeserving of opportunity.
In view of what I see every day among "the poor," it is clear to me that we need to rethink how we "do charity." As a matter of fact, we need less charity and more creativity around opening doors of economic opportunity for our low-income neighbors.
Announcement from Duke Memorial UMC
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