Walking a Mile in Their Shoes

We write about the experiences of poor children and families in Suffer the Children, but we also admit that it is difficult to truly understand the reality of their lives. If you're reading this, chances are that you live a life that is insulated from those in poverty. Your neighbors aren't desperately poor, you don't really know the person who checks you out at the convenience store, or the middle-aged woman who waits on you at the fast food restaurant you treat your children to occasionally. We tend to become friends with, go to church with, and work with people whose lifestyles and incomes mirror ours. You may have traveled overseas or to an inner city neighborhood on a short-term mission or volunteer trip, but have you really gotten to know and understand how the families you have worked with live?

Rich Stearns, the president of World Vision and author of several books, including one of my favorites, The Hole in Our Gospel, provides, in his Outreach Magazine article, 3 Ways to Empathize With the Poor, some hands-on ways to help each of us better understand the struggles the poor face each day. Gary and I, on our Resources page above also provide similar ideas. We have often, for example, eaten a meal of rice and beans while reading together about the lives of the poor in a developing nation. We also lived for a week on the food we could buy for the equivalent of the maximum food stamp allotment for a couple. While we know that such activities don't truly take us into the lives of our country's or our world's most impoverished, they have provided us with a glimpse that helps us better understand them. And for a more detailed window into the mindset and experiences of America's poor, I'd strongly recommend reading J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy.

Jane SmithComment