19 April 2009

Poverty redefined

Tims are tough. We know that. The unemployment rate is discussed at least once a day if not more frequently. Budgets require tightening. Lifestyles as we've come to know them in the western world, in particular, are changing and in some cases dramatically.
Times are tough, but do we really know poor? Do we really know sacrifice?
Are we really aware of the richness and absolute wealth that we've become so accustomed to?

This "guest post" from a friend of mine causes me to rethink what I know and consider a different perspective. See what you think.


A Reflection

On Sunday morning before church, I got a call about a baby: a girl, seven months old, young mother, very poor, unable to care for the baby . . . “Can you help?” I agreed to meet with the persons involved today, Tuesday.The baby was brought in from her remote, mountain home. I sat down in a middle-class living room here in the city with the mother, the baby, the mother’s employer and her two children, the mother’s employer’s sister and mother, and two of my teenagers.

The mother of the baby is twenty-two years old, and she works as a house servant in the home of two young professionals and their two children. They pay her one hundred dollars per month, which is less than half the legal minimum wage in Honduras. She is a live-in maid, and is given two days off every fifteen days to go home and see her siblings and baby, who live several hours away. Both of this young woman’s parents are dead. In a household of eight, she is the only one with employment. Everyone depends upon her $100/month for food and education. For her family, her pregnancy meant another hungry child, and for her employer, it was an unwelcome intrusion.

I had been called by the employer’s mother, whom I have known for many years. On the phone, she described the baby as being in desperate straits, and the mother eager to have someone care for her. In reality, I saw a young woman who dearly wanted to care for her baby, but without a single voice in her favor. Her employer had just miscarried. I asked this woman, “Can’t you take care of the baby here?” It seemed like the logical, merciful solution. The mother could keep her little girl and continue working.

“Oh, no!” this young woman replied. “My husband would never agree to that. And besides, we don’t have enough room.” I thought of the closed doors in Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. I thought of the miscarried baby who certainly would have had a special place prepared in this same home for his/her arrival.

But not this child. This child was a problem, an obstacle which needed to be removed. They would do “the right thing.” They would call Suzy, and she would make the problem go away. Their servant could get back to work, and they could get on with their lives.

I took the baby, because no child should grow up where he or she is not wanted. The mother wept. The woman who called me held her and said all would be well. And I’m sitting up, thinking about a world in which there is often, even today, no room in the inn.

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