What does poverty look like? Tattered clothes, unwashed hair, a gaunt reflection or, maybe, dirty drinking water. Yes, it is all of these things. But what about the poverty right next door, in the row of cubicles you sit in every day . . . or your own home?
When we think of poverty, our minds often turn to economics. We think of food, shelter and the amenities of what we deem to be physically necessary to life. I was reminded today, as I sat on a comfy chair, sipped my latte and looked around me, that poverty is more than being poor in material goods . . . there is a poverty of hope. It hit me like a punch in the gut and brought me to tears to really tune into the level of hope in those around me.
Insufficient, deficit, scarce—whatever you call it, a lack of hope can create a poverty of the soul. Sullen shoulders, a vacant stare, a distracted longing. It should make you ache to think about it. Look up from your cell phone and really see the people around you. Is someone struggling under the burdens of despair, past choices or a feeling of unworthiness? That hurt needs hope.
Just like you give your spare change to help others in need or donate warm clothes to those in need this fall, give of your hopeful energy and share warm hugs of support. Even as one of the richest nations in the world, we suffer from a great epidemic of the poverty of hope. It’s easy to believe that “me is enough,” that you “don’t want to interfere” or that you have “too much on my plate already.” I call bullshit.
No one was created to be lonely or go it alone. Love and kindness are never interfering (we both know that’s an excuse for inaction). And yes, we all have a ton of distracting tasks and weighty to-dos, but giving to others is the best way to get right in your own life.
The poverty of hope is not something that I, you or any of us can tackle solo—we must turn to each other in humility, care and mercy to share the hope we have and reverse this trend of poverty in our neighbors, families and communities.
Start by showing up for the next person you see . . . a smile, a bright hello, an offer of assistance, a prayer . . . every little act is an investment in their life and your own.