Sunday, January 6, 2008

poverty. epiphany. hope.

Today, in the Christian church, we celebrate Epiphany. The following is based on "A Common Foundation: Shared Principles for Work on Overcoming Poverty," an interfaith statement which is guiding work through A Minnesota Without Poverty.

A Litany in Epiphany of Commitment to Ending Poverty

In this season of Epiphany, the glory of Christ has shined upon us and will continue to shine as we look for the daily presence of Christ in the world.
As we live through the rhythms and changes of life, let us remember to live by our faith in God's salvation which leads to healing the wholeness for all creation.

As a people of faith, with varying traditions and beliefs, we see a vision of common work which we can do to combat poverty and to walk with people living in poverty.

We believe it is the intent of God in Christ: that all people should have enough of this world's goods to live with dignity.

that we avoid those things which divide those with too little from those with more;
that all necessary private and public resources work together to end poverty;

that all communities of faith be invited to commit to overcoming poverty;
that direct actions and advocacy in the public arena be used to end poverty;

that government be called to work with communities of faith in bringing an end to poverty;
that overcoming poverty is an Epiphany hope that we learn in Christ. We are determined to let the light of God in Christ shine throughout our communities so that people of faith will see the call that ensures that no person is forced to live in poverty.

I was astounded to learn the number of people living in poverty in the state of Minnesota. Do you know how many people are living in poverty in your state?

MPR broadcast this information in 2006, and of course, there are many, many more reports that tell us just how many children and families are living in poverty. Of course, lack of insurance goes hand in hand with poverty and low income.

My dear friend and Sister-In-Law wrote about the school on wheels and about the poverty that fueled its existence. I teach theater in an inner city public school. I see poverty every day. I know children who go home to crazy environments with parents who will do just about anything to keep a roof over their family's heads. I know children who bounce from shelter to shelter to shelter.

Sometimes, I wish that I could bring the whole world into my life...

Sometimes, we have enough.
Sometimes, we have a little more.
Usually, we have not quite enough.
We struggle and worry and draw straws - who shall we pay today?
My husband is an actor and a writer and a stay-at-home dad.
I am a part-time teacher and actor.
We pick up all of the extra gigs that we can.

And still, my family is so very, very fortunate.
We have one car - just one, that is woefully under insured...
We have three lovely children - three, that are woefully under insured...
We have a lovely home - just one, that has a mortgage just barely within our reach...

We are so lucky, even if we sometimes feel the squeeze of wanting and needing more.

And I look to my friends - doctors, and architects, and lawyers, and artists - and I wonder if they ever feel that squeeze?
And I look at all that is around me, the glutenous abundance that is being advertised everyday, and I wonder which is better: the safety of financial security or the happy laughter that fills my home?

This celebration called Epiphany celebrates the 3 wise men that came to find Jesus shortly after his birth. They were guided by a star to find this baby. What star guides you? Family? Fame? Fortune? Faith?

The wise men brought offerings for the baby they knew that they would find. They gave up Herod's dreams of fortune and control to protect the Child of Hope. They knew what they would find when they followed the star. And they knew what they would do when they found what they were looking for.

What will you do when you get to where your star is guiding you?

I don't know which star I am following anymore. I don't know if I am following more than one star - can I do that? Or will I just end up wandering around the desert?

I do know this: poverty sucks. Our family may not have much, or on some days - enough, but it is enough to share with anyone. Anyone who asks. Anyone who needs to be fed. or clothed. or sheltered.

What will you do to end the poverty that mankind shares with you?


lisa {milkshake} said...

Wow, Ahna. What a question. I guess I haven't really thought about what I will do to help others overcome poverty. We also juggle bills and worry about what will be paid each month. Like you, some months are better than others, and we DO have a house in a good neighborhood, a car, and enough money to feed our family.

I think one small thing we can each do is to teach our children that there are more important things than material possessions. My family comes first.

I look forward to hearing others' responses!

Patti said...

those of us who make less in this world fair better upon retirement because we require less. i just read an article about this and was heartened. finally a plus!

and for others to overcome poverty? to live as the best example that i can as i came from humble beginnings. and to give to programs that truly help, not just give lip service to it.

Angela WD said...

Your life and your careers sound wonderful to me. Better a crust of bread where there is love than a feast where there is hatred.

I work with our homeless shelter most weeks, so I see a lot of poverty too. I hope that somehow I am making a difference.

Rose said...

What a great essay. Thank you for giving me a lot to think about. I've been frustrated lately by the fact that I don't have a house at my age, due to my divorce, but I should count my blessings. I also justify the fact that I don't help out more by counting my career as a teacher enough. I teach, therefore I make less, therefore I'm already giving? But it really isn't enough is it? Thanks again for something I'll be thinking about a lot.

Ahna said...

Sweet Ahna Iguana, I absolutely can't wait to meet you someday. Thank you for these beautiful thoughts. We're so much alike: I just blogged about Epiphany, too. :)

Also -- at the risk of sounding a bit self-promoting, I do have a song I wrote for the season of Epiphany. It's simply called "Epiphany." It's on my MySpace, if anyone wants to hear it.

Since you were talking about which star it is we are following... I thought it might be appropriate. Blessings to all.

Bethany said...

This is beautiful. I read it a couple days ago and didn't know what to say or how to say it. But you should know, I am totally feeling it.