by Tammy Phillips
“Better to live humbly with the poor than to share plunder with the proud.”
Proverbs 16:19 (NLT)
In the 1990’s, I lived in Raleigh, serving with a prison fellowship. In one of the communities, there was an organization that partnered with mine. The leaders of that organization, a married couple, had been on the mission field. They returned to the United States and started a ministry in an impoverished part of Raleigh. During one of their first meetings, they asked the adults, mostly single mothers, what they needed. They said they wanted activities for their children so that became one of the focuses for their ministry and eventually, they started a school.
This couple, along with other couples they recruited, had not known, and did not know poverty. But they gave up their lavish homes for a season, and moved into the poor neighborhood near the organization’s headquarters. Before the building became a school, other activities not only for children but also for adults were held there. One of the programs was the Supper Club. Blacks and Whites from around the city regularly shared a meal and talked either about a particular book dealing with race relations or current events. The club began during the O.J. Simpson case; this encouraged some lively discussions.
When the O.J. Simpson verdict was announced, many of the affluent members were dismayed by the response of some — how could they be happy he got off? One of the things they had to learn about poverty was the number of men and women incarcerated because they could afford neither bail nor proper representation was extremely high. So many were happy that a Black man was not going to spend his life in prison.
One of the couples was prominent in local politics. When the streetlight in their affluent neighborhood went out, one telephone call was made and in hours the light was fixed. However, in their new community where the poor folks lived when the streetlight went out, several calls were made and ignored. Weeks later the streetlight was finally replaced.
A friend of one of the affluent wanted to bring her youth group to “see” the children in the neighborhood. It took a minute for the woman to realize that her friend was carrying the group to view the neighborhood children like animals in a zoo. It was startling for her to realize that not so long ago, she too thought the same way.
Living among people who did have the advantages they had was life altering for many of the couples. They learned that people were people with hurts, joys, and concerns for their families. They learned to listen and to accept that they did not have all the answers. Since they were in the minority, they began to understand how uncomfortable that could feel.
As the years passed by, some of the haughty became humble. Sharing your life can do that.