Usually, when I write a blog post, I have a topic already in mind that I want to talk about. It’s something I’ve been reading or studying about or just some things that have been rumbling around in my heart for a while. Each post comes in a very specific order: idea, writing, editing, photo selection, social media post creation.
But today, as I was scrolling through Unsplash, looking for an image for another post, I stumbled upon this post’s picture and it took me back to a clear memory from more than 6 years ago.
I was living in Flagstaff, Arizona and the church I was attending was in a low-income area that had a high crime rate and was in disrepair. It was truly the best place for that church to be!
One day, I pulled in to volunteer in some capacity, and a few kids were running around in the parking lot. It was a beautiful summer day and, because the building was safe, the kids would often come over to play tag or other games in the parking lot. On this day, four boys were playing soccer, laughing and having a great time together. I got out of my car with a smile on my face, thinking about just how picturesque the scene was until I saw what they were playing with: a crushed water bottle. And my heart broke.
But these children were unphased. They were happy as could be, but my eyes were opened at that moment.
Before living there and attending that church, I knew that poverty and income inequality existed, I was just insulated from it. I lived my middle-class life, thinking that others were having an approximate experience. I never would’ve guessed that some children in America didn’t have shoes or couldn’t afford something as simple as a soccer ball.
The truth is that poverty exists all around us, it just looks different from person to person and neighborhood to neighborhood.
Flagstaff has a massive income disparity and was one of the darkest spiritual places I’ve lived. It was absolutely beautiful, full of wonder around every turn, and you could see the glory of God displayed when you walked out your door, but the spiritual poverty of that place was heart-wrenching.
I currently live near Dallas, Texas and there’s a different kind of poverty here. We have a serious wealth disparity, but the spiritual makeup is very different. There’s a church on every corner and, because it’s part of the Bible belt, people know church but not everybody knows Jesus. Here, there’s also an immense health and emotional poverty as people don’t steward their bodies well and don a mask to maintain status.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is this: poverty is all around us. Even in the most affluent of cities, poverty can still be found. You might find emotional, mental, physical, relational, or spiritual poverty in those places of opulence and wealth. No matter the state of our bank accounts, our social media feeds, or our facial expressions, we’re all fighting battles, we each have different stories, and we’re all moving toward something.
I wonder what forms of poverty we would find in our neighborhoods, our communities, our churches, our workplaces, and even ourselves if we just took the time to look. We might be amazed at what we find. There might be encouragement we can give, a story we can share, help we can offer, or comfort to be extended that might be just the thing that person in poverty needs.
Six years ago, we gave those boys a soccer ball and, while I’ll never know the impact that made on them, I know I was profoundly changed. I’m reminded that we never know what one strategic act of kindness can do in someone’s life.
To go Deeper: Read Servolution
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