A month ago a friend recommended I watch the movie "The Line". This is a free internet movie that shares the stories of people living at or below the poverty line . The poverty line is considered to be a family living on an annual income of about $23,000 US per year. In North America we have become accustomed to "the poor" being overseas. Or we think "the poor" are in the inner city. Or we think "the poor" are homeless and living under bridges. This isn't the reality.
You know poor people.
(And just for the sake of clarity I'll specify that I'm talking about the financially poor right now because we could get into a whole other discussion about poverty and it's various forms. For more information on that I recommend that you check out the book When Helping Hurts).
There are people in your community who are struggling.
There are people in your congregation who need assistance.
The thing is - we sometimes have blinders on and we just don't always see it, or hear about it, or maybe we just don't know how to help... Or if we should help. Will we be enabling? How much do they really need? Why have they been so irresponsible? They need to manage their money better.
The fact is that sometimes our questions ooze judgement and condescention, even if our hearts are in the right place! If we have never been in a financially poor place, we often can't understand what has brought a person to this place - and we have a whole bunch of assumptions about why they are in the circumstance that they are in. Somehow, someway this is their fault.
This is where the movie "The Line" is so powerful. These are real stories of people who are in a tight place. Each story is different - there is no cookie cutter solution to make everything better. This movie forces us to face the fact that poverty is in our neighbourhoods - and it's not something we have to fear - but it is something we should be compelled to respond to. It's made pretty clear in our diaconal call:
As deacons we are called to serve by showing mercy to the church and all people. We are to show that Christians live by the Spirit of the kingdom. Part of this is done by assessing needs, collecting and disbursing resources for benevolence and developing programs of assistance. (That's a few bits and pieces of our calling - all straight out of the Form for the Ordination of Elders and Deacons).
Let's prayerfully ask God to open our eyes to the immediate needs around us, to stir our hearts to compassion and to move our bodies to respond - with grace, love, hope and wisdom.
And hey - let's actually meet people, learn their stories, and build meaningful relationships instead of passing quick judgements and putting up walls to keep ourselves safe.