Voices of the poor
So often when we go out and advocate for policy change to help the lives of those who suffer from the anguish of desperate poverty we do so with statistics. “USDA reported that 36.2 people are living in food insecure households, that is almost one in eight Americans.” But what is often missing are the voices and faces of those whose lives reflect the everyday reality of not having shelter over their heads in inclement weather or enough food to fill their stomachs on any given day or the dignity to know that their lives matter.
I have always found it is that personal connection of showing another person respect and dignity that I most often meet my Creator and connect to my faith in a tangible way. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of thee least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40).
Yesterday, our amazing volunteer Oregon State Coordinator, Mike Hiland, set up a meeting with Sisters of the Road inviting myself and fellow organizer in the Western Region, Matt Newell-Ching. We had the privilege and opportunity to live out our faith by sharing a simple meal with people of very low income or that lived on the street. Sisters of the Road is all about dignity and inclusion. Meals at reduced prices are shared at communal tables with an emphasis on hospitality. Although, Sister’s is not a Christian organization, one could truly feel the truth in the example of what Christ showed us through his gospel in that room. How often do you sit and break bread with a stranger and leave friends. I left feeling we had experienced a living Eucharist.
We also left with a book that Executive Director Monica Beemer gave us called “Voices from the Street.” The book is not a narration of what life on the street is by some academic or a set of analyzed statistics, but is told in the voices of those who experience on a daily basis what poverty does to lives through a series of intimate interviews. It is a story of humanity, intelligence, dignity and in many ways hope. In looking through the book, one line of an interview really caught my attention and summed up for me what the body of Christ is all about. It is in the section on solutions to homelessness where the impoverished are brought to the table an asked what they need. This interviewee Bryan was talking about the need to live in community.
“Sisters: What is the importance of having neighbors?
Bryan: A sense of community. People live together; that is one of the things that we have done since the beginning of time. We need to feel like we are part of something. We need to feel like we are associated with each other and that those associations are not necessarily meaningless.”
It is a book I highly recommend. Mike has written a wonderful blog post on the Oregon Bread site about how to connect to the website to link the interviews and where you can purchase the book.
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