Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty

I grew up without much. In fact, I remember fourth grade when I became aware my lunch ticket was a different color than the lunch tickets my friends held. I felt such shame when I realized this was because my lunches were free. I was a "poor kid."

There were many things I did without. This is not to say my childhood was lacking joy. My brother and sisters and I played outside and went swimming and had a kitten. My mom made apple strudel with us, and we had the riches of music in our home. I still don't know how my parents did it, but we had Cabbage Patch Dolls and Barbies and bicycles and Care Bears.

That shame thing is a terrible burden to carry around, though.

I grew into an adult with a successful career. My husband also did well, and soon I found myself buying a house in affluent West St. Louis County. We both drove shiny cars and ate at nice sushi restaurants. We took cruises and traveled to warm beaches and flew to Europe. One day about a year ago, I plunked down $400 for a designer purse. Without even blinking.

That was probably the turning point for me. With that purse on my arm and my expensive salon haircut, I was sure no one could see my past. The funny thing is, I began feeling ashamed of that purse. Oh, most of the time I loved it. But here and there, I had huge flashes of guilt. What could $400 have done for my family when I was a girl?

And, as they say, having a baby changes everything.

Chris and I began discussing going to one income. Though I had taken cuts in pay over the years, even moving into the non-profit sector, I still brought in a significant chunk of our earnings. If I quit my job, what would we have to give up?

The more we talked about it, the more I realized the "stuff" I would be giving up didn't really matter. I even started looking around my house, feeling choked by all of our "stuff." Did we really need all of this?

Of course, the answer is no. I fully realize all of these things I have are gifts from God. Truly. I just don't think He meant me to use His gifts to purchase designer handbags. So I quit my job, and Chris and I have started to unclutter our lives. We're purging some of this "stuff" that surrounds us, and it feels good.

And there are others we can help at the same time. Although I can say with sincerity that I grew up poor, I still had food in my belly and a roof over my head. Poor in America and poor in the rest of the world are two very different things. Read The Poisonwood Bible. True, it's a work of fiction. But it made me thankful for what I have, since so many others have much, much less. So many others have absolutely nothing.

This spring, Chris and I will have another garage sale to get rid of some of the "stuff" that's choking us. And we'll be donating the proceeds to Kiva.

Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.

The people you see on Kiva's site are real individuals in need of funding - not marketing material. When you browse entrepreneurs' profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates and track repayments. Then, when you get your loan money back, you can relend to someone else in need.

Are you, too, drowning in your "stuff?" If so, please consider joining me in a gift to Kiva. I can assure you, it's as much a gift to yourself as to anyone else.

This post is part of Blog Action Day 08 - Poverty. Oh, and read my sister's post here and Tari's post here. They will certainly make you think, and they may even make you cry. You've been warned.


Heather said...

I love this idea.

I feel so fortunate to call you my friend. You inspire me to be a better person.


Rachel said...

You really are an amazing person. I'm so glad that you are my sister!

barrywallace said...

Wow. That's a great personal testimony. Thanks for sharing it.

Momisodes said...

What an amazing story.

I've heard such great things about Kiva. I will have to look into it more. It truly sounds like an amazing way to reach out to someone on a personal level.

p.s. I haven't dropped that much on a purse before, but I've thought about it. And the guilt is what always gets me.

jennifer@love,laughter,and lyrics said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. It's good to hear stories like this - especially when the world seems so crazy. It reminds you of what is truly important

Momma said...

What a wonderful realization to come to. Thank you so much for sharing such a personal thing with us. I think wanting material things is something that we all struggle with and you have reminded me of how much it really doesn't matter. What matters is my husband and my son.

Prasti said...

amen, girl. thank you for your post.

i often struggle with that can we be better stewards with what God has given us? i think it's especially critical when we as parents are setting the example for our children.

Jackie @ Our Moments Our Memories said...

Reading this really puts things into perspective....I grew up much like you did, and then later in life when we started making good money, it was so easy to get caught up in owning stuff. I love how you have such an open and teachable heart.

Shari Baby said...

good post. i'm sure that is hard to talk about. and i choked a little bit when i read about the purse purchase. but you've learned! =) you're right...we have so much and take so much for granted. We are BLessed!