I Can’t Understand Poverty, Not Really

This note sits on my desktop to remind me of how fortunate I am.

“…This type of wretchedness is an abstraction for us white people. Regardless of how much we see it around us, we cannot truly understand what poverty is because we do not suffer from it.  At least not as much as the Indian peasant woman I met once in Bolivia. This peasant woman had four bowls of rice and five children. She gave each of her four oldest children a bowl but not one who was sitting in a corner. I asked her: ‘Why don’t you feed this child?’ She answered: ‘That one is the weakest, the youngest and in any case will be the first to die. I do not have enough food for all five so I have to choose, and I will not feed the one who will die first.'”

– Participant at the Dialectics of Liberation Conference, London, 1967

 

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2 thoughts on “I Can’t Understand Poverty, Not Really”

  1. Thanks for this post, Penny. What a sobering insight. I happen to live in the third world (Philippines) where the largest demographic is the poor. It is not hard to find the terrible effects of poverty, and the unfortunate thing is that we get so easily numbed: you stop at a traffic light for 30 seconds, and a beggar knocks on your window — this is common. It becomes increasingly easy to brush it off or feel that you can do nothing to help. I’ve done work with urban and rural poor, and even then I cannot claim to understand fully. All I know is that I experience God when the walls come down and I can commune with them. The Kingdom becomes clearer, God feels nearer, and I am assured more fully of grace, mercy and love. It is a mystery, and daily I ponder on it. Blessed are the poor.

    1. Thank you for this reminder: All I know is that I experience God when the walls come down and I can commune with them. The Kingdom becomes clearer, God feels nearer, and I am assured more fully of grace, mercy and love. It is a mystery, and daily I ponder on it. Blessed are the poor.

      Such a needed insight.

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