Poverty As a Mystery to Be Entered Into

This blog post has been submitted on behalf of the ECCT Poor People’s Campaign Working Group. Learn more about The Poor People’s Campaign and the upcoming Mass Poor People’s & Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington June 18.

Offered by the Rev. Deacon Ronald Steed

I work at the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, an emergency shelter and housing agency, alongside neighbors who are experiencing homelessness and poverty. I used to think that poverty was a problem to be solved and I found that my ego could not help but to get thoroughly immersed in it.

As a “Problem”, poverty was something I could walk around and consider at a distance… it was a challenge… one my mind was eager to solve. Over time, I felt frustration, anger, and rage at the problem, its intractability, its injustice. And… I began to regard the people experiencing this problem as a problem themselves. My language changed: “you should do this” or “you need to do that”. Poverty as a problem-to-be-solved became de-humanizing to them… and to me.

Now, I see poverty more as a spiritual force in the world and a mystery to be entered into… more as a work of the heart rather than the head. And since it IS a mystery, I have to enter into it WITH the person who is experiencing it. To see it as THEY see it… to respond to it in the ways that THEY want to respond. I have to let go of my solutions for them… let go of my “expertise”… let go of outcomes. Rather, to scatter seeds… to be a midwife.

There are completely different emotions that come with heart-work: empathy, heart-break, hope, contemplation… joy. These are some of the cross-shaped emotions of coming alongside. I invite the Spirit into the heart-space… ask her to be with us… invite Jesus in as well, asking for his healing power to be brought to bear.

One of our Community Navigators was telling me about her heart-break as a person described the INDIGNITY of poverty… of constantly having to ask for help, and then having to ask again, over and over. She has begun to see her work, not so much as finding a house and employment and healthcare for them, but as restoring their dignity, as an act of resistance against a spiritual force. There is a mystery in that to be entered into…

One thought on “Poverty As a Mystery to Be Entered Into

  1. Deacon, You have verbalized such a vital and true reality of poverty. I appreciate that you enumerated the emotions that come with the “heart-break”. Looking at poverty as a mystery against a spiritual force is certainly a sign of hope and dignity. I encourage you to write more on this subject. Gracias, muchas gracias.

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