Voices of poverty: life on the margins

By Jessica Connor

When our eyes are opened, we can see them clearly: our friends, neighbors, brothers and sisters on the fringes of life. Sometimes they don't have enough to eat. Sometimes they don't have a home of their own and stay with family members or live out of their car. Or in a shelter. Or on a park bench. Whatever they can do to survive and get by until they can catch a break.

These neighbors might not walk right up to you and voice the words I m hungry or I need someplace warm to sleep, but if you listen closely to their words, if you look deep into their eyes, you can see the need.

But all too often, we don t open our ears, eyes or hearts enough to notice. It s understandable ”we are so caught up in our jobs, families, activities and, ironically, our church duties that we re just too plain busy to hear their cries. We are so consumed by ourselves and the busy-ness of our own daily struggles that we fail to recognize there are people right in our path who live daily on the margins of life; people for whom we can be Jesus.

By helping them, we are walking deeper with Jesus. By seeing them, we are cracking open the emptiness of our own existence and doing right by God.

We are being love when we serve those in need.

And there is so much need: children who look forward to school primarily because they know they can eat and be safe and warm for seven straight hours. Elderly who are one medical emergency away from destitution. Men and women who have to rely on payday lenders, pawnshops and other institutions just to keep a roof over their heads.

I m convinced that if we open ourselves to real relationship with those who struggle from poverty, hunger, illiteracy and other issues, then we can better see the woes of the world ”and better meet those needs through Christian love and service. What the Greenville District is doing with their new relationship-based Methodist Family Partnering with Families initiative is spot-on, as is what the conference is doing with the Children in Poverty task force.

Inspired by those efforts, this edition of the Advocate begins what I pray will become a new series, Life on the Margins, where the very people who experience these devastating needs can voice their struggles and discuss, in an honest way, how the church helps them ”or perhaps sometimes even fails them. This series is something God put squarely on my heart, and I hope you will help this newspaper give voice to the people who live on the margins of life so we can see, hear and know them in a way we might not otherwise.

It s time to start hearing the voices of poverty and focusing on how we can be helpful.

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