Poverty is not something with which we are familiar. Our version of ‘doing without’ is often something as simple as continuing to use our DVD player while all of the neighbors have moved on to BlueRay players. But much of the world lives in a community of poverty.
Imagine coming home to your three-bedroom house and pulling into the garage. You put your keys in the proper place and arrange a few things. Then your mind turns to food. You’re not really hungry but advertisers keep food in our minds all day long, so now that you’re home it’s your chance to consume. You go to your kitchen cupboard, and…no food. The shelves are bare. They’re all bare, even the secret spaces where you hide special foods. You think, “How strange!” So, you turn to the refrigerator. There’s plenty of food in your fridge, except today there isn’t any. It’s empty just like your cupboards. And the basement storage area is bare as well. Your house hasn’t a scrap of anything edible.
You’ve never been in this situation before. Your next door neighbor has bailed you out in tight situations before, so you head out the back door toward his place. He’s headed your way at the same time and meets you at the property line. You smile and tell a joke about having nothing to eat, and he replies that he was just on his way to see what he could borrow from you. He’s in the same boat.
Well, that’s all easy enough to fix. You grab your wallet and keys as you look at your watch and decide which grocery store you’ll visit, but you discover your wallet has no cash. Not the end of the world, though, because you’ve got your bank card. A few minutes later you’re surprised again as the message on the ATM screen says that the bank’s systems are being repaired and you will be getting no money from them today. You sigh and begin to calculate your next step. How long can you wait until you come back and check the ATM again? Will you be able to sleep the night without a bite of anything at all? You’ll make it, but tomorrow morning will be strange with no breakfast of any kind.
Family members will help you, except that when you make it to their house they are all in the same dire straits. Where do you turn now? You wouldn’t stoop to ask your church for help, at least not on this first day. But you ask yourself about next week, or next month. If this continues, what will you do? You’re comforted by the thought of government programs if nothing else works out. Surely something will turn up.
What would life be like without resources? It might be hard to imagine. But lots of families are in the very situation described above only it’s no surprise to them. They’ve lived their lives that way. And, sadly, there are no government programs to act as a safety net for them. Their houses are bare, their neighbors’ houses are bare, and their families’ houses are bare as well. They’ve got no cash to purchase supplies and no money to pull from a bank. That’s poverty. It’s a different but real way of life.