The Common Good

Poverty and Personal Responsibility (Part 2)

[ ...continued from part one]

So how do we help people who have been hurt so much psychologically and emotionally that they don't believe in themselves and don't believe they deserve better? How do we help children who have never heard a parent say, "I love you, you are special, talented, and will do great things one day"? Or those who watched their parents harm themselves through substance abuse or alcoholism? Is there hope for these men, women, and children? If we believe in God and the power of God to give us beauty for ashes, then the answer is yes!

For many people living in poverty, their change will not come through programs and policies, but it will come through personal responsibility. What I mean is that it will come through our personal responsibility to walk alongside them and show them through our actions that we are not going to give up on them. It will require that those of us who no longer live in poverty or have never known poverty develop substantive relationships with people who are poor. We must go out and meet people where they are and show them how we got out, show them through our interaction with them that they are loved. Invite them into our homes so that they can be exposed to a better life, see what healthy relationships look like, and hear us talk to our children using words of empowerment. When people see living, breathing examples of what God can do, that's when they believe God can do it.

And yes, I understand that this notion of stepping out of our comfort zones to have deeper personal relationships with people whom we don't know and perhaps don't understand, is not very appealing or makes us uncomfortable. But is this not what Jesus did? Every person he encountered was a stranger before that moment. In fact, we were strangers when he found us. But as it was when Jesus walked the earth, reaching out to those in need of change, touching people who had never felt a compassionate hand, so it is today.

Yes, in our own power and limited ability we cannot do this, and I would daresay that some may not want to do it, but with God all things are possible. If we humble ourselves and say, "God, I cannot move this mountain, I need you to move it for me, increase my faith," then and only then can we truly eliminate poverty by liberating the poor from the psychological bondage of their circumstances.

I know this is possible because it is my story. Had it not been for men and women who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself, people who refused to leave when I tried to force them out of my life, had it not been for them I would either still be living in poverty, selling drugs, in a gang, or dead. But thanks be to God for those men and women who refused to give up on me simply because they realized that in their own lives, God refused to give up on them. Yes, we need better policy, new programs, and personal responsibility, but perhaps what we need most is to stand alongside the people who need us most.

Rev. Romal Tune is the CEO of Clergy Strategic Alliances, a graduate of Howard University and Duke University School of Divinity, and a member of the Red Letter Christians.

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