A colleague of mine has worked among the urban poor. He has lived in places we would avoid and can’t even imagine.
He shared some ideas – Jesus became poor. Jesus often worked in cities. Jesus worked among the outcasts and the poor. Jesus’ disciples were from the working class.
He talks about us as westerners thinking of doing good things among the poor and how we might rethink things.
We “do to understand”. We do in to learn as we help. But we don’t go in with a mindset that we know everything. Rather we do things – slowly – and then begin to understand how things work among those we are serving. We go in to learn about the spirit of the people, the assets that are present, the leadership capabilities of some among the community.
He talks about “appreciative inquiry”. You go in to look for the positives, and don’t see everything as a problem. What are the strengths. You honor the gifts and strengths of the people who have lived there among transitions and poverty, and have thrived against all odds. So there are strengths present.
You don’t bring in money and things. This is what we as westerners do so often and it is not helpful. The resources are there because this is the nature of the Kingdom of God.
And a view of “non-destitute poverty”. Where people make choices to work and live among the poor but not a choice to be destroyed and overcome and see everything as “poor”. That is in your inner spirit you are not poor. So you don’t lament and aggrandize your living as poor. You make a choice to live a certain way but you don’t become poor in your thinking.
I think this can transform how we see people among us. Those who are in different economic situations than us, those with problems we don’t have. A more Christ-like way to see those among us with value, hope, and life.
Here’s a clip to challenge your thinking…