I used to think that poverty was all about money. Just a lack of generosity, will or opportunity, both given and taken. I used to think that people could make simple choices that could raise them up out of poverty if they just really wanted it enough. I was incredibly naive.
I have come to learn that poverty isn't just about income. Poverty isn't about finances. Poverty isn't about jobs.
Poverty is pervasive. It depletes and erodes and siphons away at all it touches. Poverty is subtle and sly. It is a glutton that munches around the edges of life, eating at the structure and stability humanity relies on. Poverty is no respecter of persons.
I didn't know that when we moved to New Brunswick we would be on the very edges of the Appalachian chain of mountains that stretch down the eastern seaboard. There is a pervasive poverty that is attached to these mountains. They hold great beauty and richness, both in people and in culture, but there is also a profound brokenness that infiltrates and cultures a deep scarcity that has affected generations. It is a poverty that wounds and magnifies itself forward into the lives of it's descendants. It is a poverty that has little to do with money.
This is why trickle down economics never works. It is why programs about programs cannot seem to make a dent. It is why Jesus said "the poor you will always have with you" - because he knew that poverty of soul was far greater than the poverty of the pocketbook.
I am astounded with the depth of need I see around me. Stupefied even. Frozen with the vastness of it all. How can we make a difference? What can we do? What can be done to break this pervasive, generational cycle of poverty so that there will one day be hope for those that follow?
My husband Keith regularly reminds me that far too often when I am overwhelmed and discouraged by the pittance I am able to offer, "Sometimes we can only see the lack and we don't know what could be happening if we weren't here standing in the gap, offering our small contribution." That is a perspective I struggle to achieve. I forget that by "doing small things with great love" the world is changed.
So today, just for today, I will do small things, with as much love as I am able to muster. It needs to be enough. It will be enough.