I’ve talked about the poor in the abstract up until this point, so let me show you some names and stories of those living in poverty.
Judah, whom I’ve talked about elsewhere in my writings and in particularly my emails, works tirelessly at his job as a tile mason for a large constructing contractor. In the little time that he has off, when many in his position would be drinking their sorrows away with the cheapest booze available, he’s sending messages and meeting with people to tell them the Good News of the Christ who forgave his sin and appeared to him in a dream. He’s one of the most tireless, devoted, energetic 58 year olds that you’ll ever meet.
Except that he’s not 58. He’s 48, but the years he has spent pouring out his sweat for the companies that employ him and extract his labor with surprising efficiency have left him with an appearance advanced beyond his age.
It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.
And what have these decades of labor given him? About $1.50 an hour, when he’s fortunate enough to get paid.
He is one of countless exhibits that contradict the hollow promise given to young people of my generation. “If you put your mind to it and work hard, you can be anything.”
I will admit in certain parts of the world that is more true than others, but for the most part, it’s not. Globally, glass ceilings are more the norm than exception, and I might even say most of those ceilings are bronze, whether we would like to admit it or not.
“If you work hard and the systems around you aren’t twisted and catastrophically broken, you can be anything.”
Another example is young woman we were introduced to named Mary. She came to our metropolitan city from a West African nation having been promised a decent job with decent wages. Having worked in housekeeping for a hotel in a large city in her country, she had experience that could have been put to good use in a tourist destination like our city. When she arrived, her agent told her that if she wanted to work in the city, it was going to be in prostitution. Unlike many other women, she courageously refused, though it left her jobless and friendless.
She later met a woman at the bus stop who offered a listening ear. It begin a series of connections which brought her into our circle of friends. We were able to help find her some housing and obtain a visa for her to do some job searching.
After a month of searching, no doors opened for her. Although she has valuable experience to offer, some recent developments on the national level have worked against her. Over the past few years, organized crime has been on the rise in the city, particularly by well-resourced gangs of Africans. One of our friends, a believing businessman in the city, was even mugged and apprehended for many hours by one such a gang, which stole a significant amount of money from his accounts.
Because of instances like these, the government in this small nation took quick action and suspended the granting of tourism and job searching visas to nationals from many parts of Africa. This has made it very difficult for businesses to hire Africans in this country, at least for the time being.
Because of these situations completely outside her control, Mary has been unable to find employment, so friends in our community are going to help send her back to her own country. It is not without hesitancy, however; she feels shame after going to the city for work, and not being able to send any money back to her family.
These are individuals who through no fault of their own remain in material poverty.
That being said, there are many kinds of poverty, which I will cover in a future post.