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Discovering Compassion for the Poor

Having completed a book draft on poverty, I want to share what I’ve learned. Research/writing projects force one to enter a foreign landscape— “jungle” is a good metaphor. Rarely could I see the way forward. Each book, movie, interview or article lead me to others. I struggled to make sense of each encounter. I’m humbled from what I still don’t understand.

Finishing the draft has given me a change to pause and reflect. When and where did I develop an interest in poverty? Is poverty a part of my family’s DNA? I think so. It may be a part of your family history too. My ancestors arrived in America with only what they were allowed to bring aboard ship. Something led them to leave their home and nearly all possessions behind.

I suspect one grandfather was mentally ill. One day he walked off his farm and never returned. He left his wife and four young children to fend for themselves. My grandmother eventually sought a divorce. She stood in front of the judge and he asked how long she had had the coat she was wearing. Its condition said a great deal.

When my family moved to a new community so that my dad could start a business, our new pastor visited. He saw that no rugs covered the hardwood floors and there was little furniture. He asked if my brother and I needed shoes.

One recurring theme of my family could be summarized by saying, “We started with next to nothing.” That knowledge may produce some empathy for those with financial challenges. It may be the starting point to care about poverty and the poor.

Does your family history reflect the struggle to “make ends meet?”


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