I’ve always thought that being poor was a choice or a result of how one does things or doesn’t do things–that regardless of whether we come from a poor family or not, the choice and responsibility to break the cycle of poverty and uplift our living conditions belong only to ourselves.
I was raised by a single mother who doesn’t have a university degree, but I saw how hard she had worked to get herself in a better state and for our family to live as comfortably as we can be. I did the same–I studied very well and worked very hard to climb the ladder of my career.
I always believed that hard work is the antagonist to poverty hence, I blamed the poor for being poor and staying poor. I was disappointed with the people to whom we offered help, kept in our house, sent to school, but who wasted the opportunity. I was frustrated with those who just accepted their fate as unemployed, unproductive, and uneducated; for I know there are many opportunities around if they would just be eager to put in the effort–I myself had taken several jobs that are below my qualification and even had multiple jobs just to get by. I’ve always questioned parents for having too many children even if they know they can’t even afford to support their needs. I don’t understand people who complain for being hungry, for being poor, yet are still able to afford to get drunk.
Being a missionary, traveling to different provinces, working with different types of communities, and seeing different challenges people face in their daily lives, I had a deeper understanding of the term “social injustice.” This understanding gave me a change of heart–to not blame the poor for being poor. Some are poor because they don’t have a choice. They are poor because a system, those people in power, their geographical placement, and the society make them poor. For some, no matter how hard they work or how hard they want to work, there is very limited opportunities and resources for them.
I’ve seen a lot of street vendors enduring heat of the sun, dust of the road, smoke from the cars, and even strong rain and wind trying to sell vegetables, food, wood coal, livestock, and all kinds of kinds of stuff. They do so trying to earn some amount that I know will not be enough to feed their family or send their children to school. Mothers carry heavy loads on their head and walk miles to find a livelihood or to fetch water from a river. I have seen children needing to cross a shaky bridge and walk miles just to go to school, without even having a meal to bring.
I have also realized that they are poor and remain poor because we let them be poor and we do not do our part. They don’t have unmerited privilege and the pool of resources and opportunities that I have had, that others have, to come out of poverty.
With this, I commit myself and call on to everyone reading this, to adhere to the words from Isaiah 1:17 and Deuteronomy 15:11; and extend our privilege and help the poor. To be their voice, their hope, and their bridge towards God–towards social justice.
GMF International, Class of 2016-2018
Council of Churches in Zambia