I was noticing how often my posts make reference to one or another of my friends; how frequently I refer to my friend John, my friend Maria, my friend Tim, my friend Aidan, my friend [fill in the blank]. I thought of how many times I share something one of them said to me, or gave me or introduced me to.
The speaker in the video begins by relating a question he asked a group of theologians: What is poverty? Their answers included things like lack of money and lack of housing, i.e., poverty defined in terms of lack of material goods.
He then asked the group this question: If you learned that you lost all of your savings, your house, your job, and everything you own, so that you are now homeless and have nothing, how much time do you think it would take you to find (a) something to eat? (b) a place to sleep? (c) something to do, some kind of job? Their answers were (a) minutes to find something to eat; (b) perhaps a couple of hours to find a place to sleep; (c) within a week to find work. Most of us would give similar answers, and we would do so because we are not poor.
In other words, he said, poverty is not simply about lack of material goods. It is about lack of relationships. Lack of friends. I could lose everything I have and not be poor, not experience what the poor experience. I have enough people I could call, could go to, who would help provide what I need.
And that tells us something important both about ourselves – about how blessed we are – and about how we need to think about addressing poverty. We need to do more than find some way to meet the material needs of others. We need to find ways to bring them into relationship with others, with ourselves.