Over the years, working with women and families in conditions of poverty has been enlightening. I hesitate to say “dire poverty”, because “poverty” is a relative term……Consider the poverty of people in Third World communities who lack clean drinking water or indoor plumbing, who daily are at risk of such life threatening conditions as cholera or ebola, who lack the opportunity to get even basic education, or who subsist in refugee camps on cots or floor mats and eat the same grain-based mush day after day. Those conditions define “dire poverty” in my mind. I cannot even imagine how I could begin to address such conditions and access the resources to relieve poverty like that.
In our culture “dire poverty” is more often defined by not having a cell phone, or lacking eligibility for food stamps, or being unable to afford the cost of a residence for one’s family, or not having the name brand tennis shoes that are worn by other kids in one’s school.
For the women I serve there are some interesting “needs” that turn up in their wish list as we work together. While they don’t represent things one would think of in addressing the poverty of individuals’ physical lives, they are things that often express what they feel as poverty of spirit.
- $750 state adoption agency fee to conduct a search for a birth parent
- $500 county clerk fee to initiate divorce from a man one hasn’t lived with in nearly a decade
- $50 for gifts and birthday party supplies to celebrate with a child after having been in prison
- $800 for repairs to a car that represents one’s security in getting and keeping a job
- $65 for a prescription cream to facilitate healing of a lesion after removal of a cancerous mole
- $65 for a stylish haircut and color to boost confidence to begin a job search
- $40 for a new pair of shoes in a size that is not commonly found in thrift stores or donations
- $10 to print out photos at Walmart of one’s children in foster care to frame by one’s bed
- $20 for one’s personal needs like a fresh new hygienic tube of mascara, a favorite lipstick or eye shadow color instead of always needing to make do with the used (but welcome) offerings of others
- $20 for a new bra that actually fits well or a package of new panties in the right size or a favorite style
- $65 personal copay for an exam and new pair of glasses after approval by a vision ministry
- $250 for the lab fee for a new partial plate to restore a beautiful smile
For you and me, these may not seem like such daunting desires and some are, in fact, quite practical needs. But for one with no income, no hope, no means of securing them without the charity of others, they are heartfelt longings.
When women are given the time, emotional and physical safety and their basic needs are met in a place from which to begin their lives again and, eventually, to begin earning some money through their own efforts, these are the kinds of desires they express. We identify and facilitate small earning opportunities for them – housecleaning, yard work, car detailing, assistance with packing or moving for supporters of the ministry, organizing storage areas, or other odd jobs. There is joy and self-esteem in feeling productive and empowered to accomplish things for oneself. There is celebration in achieving a goal.
The chance to prove oneself and to be responsible for selecting and securing one’s own needs again, after a season of helplessness and destitution, can be a powerfully positive emotional experience. It also generally leads one into sincere gratitude to God for his provision and appreciation for those whom God has placed around them who cheer them on. You are part of that cheering crowd! Thank you for your support of these ladies through Titus 2 Partnership, Inc. If you have need for help with a project cleaning out the pantry, washing windows, raking a yard, etc. – call me. I know someone who would be very grateful for the opportunity to work for a few hours or a day.