I thought I grew up in a poor family; then I participated in a Poverty Simulation training in Raleigh and changed my definition of “poor.”
I have reflected on my life as a child and realized how very blessed I was. I have looked at my life as a young adult up to this point in my life, and realized how I have wasted much of the resources and time that God has given me.
I was already working in our clothing and food ministry at church, bought toys for underprivileged children at Christmas, packed up my shoebox for the Christmas Shoebox ministry, and felt confident that I was doing my part. God knew that I was feeling all complacent and content where I was. So he plunked me down on the streets of Raleigh with only the clothes on my back (not even my clothes), my sleeping bag and pillow and said, “Now, how confident do you feel?”
I guess one of the first things that occurred to me was that I never knew what time it was. I live a pretty busy life and always have somewhere I’m supposed to be, so it felt really uncomfortable not to have a watch or cell phone. I lay awake a lot of the night because it was so noisy. Trucks, cars, motorcycles, sirens and sirens and sirens. I was out of my comfortable, quiet cocoon and I couldn’t sleep.
I was served unfamiliar food and ate it without complaint because I was hungry. However, on Saturday morning as we served biscuits and donuts to our new friends, I couldn’t bring myself to eat one because I was afraid someone else would go without.
Reality really slapped me in the face on Saturday morning. I had not slept well, had on clothes that didn’t feel extremely well, hadn’t had a shower or brushed my hair. We were in small groups completing our scavenger hunt and I was walking apart from my group.
As I walked along the sidewalk, I saw a mother and her young daughter approaching me. She was a beautiful child and I adore children. So, as they came closer I smiled at her and waved. The mother immediately, pulled her daughter closer and wouldn’t look me in the eye.
My heart was crushed and tears came to my eyes as I realized that she was judging me the same way I had judged “street people” in the past.
My entire perception of those that are homeless changed very quickly as I interacted with them in the park. I had no idea that so many of them actually have jobs. I never cared to know that they each have a story and like most of us, enjoy having someone to talk with. Many of them are educated. Some of them have served their country as soldiers and are now abandoned on the street to care for themselves because they suffer from mental issues.
Mental issues primarily stemming from the things they were exposed to while serving their country. Some of them choose to remain on the streets because that’s where their real “family” is.
But all of them are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, Children of God.
A friend and I attended the simulation together. Since returning to our church, we have planned, virtually non-stop, to do a Poverty Simulation with our youth.
We have met with the director of our local homeless shelter/soup kitchen. He was very helpful in helping us discover where our skills could best mesh with the needs of our community.
He and others have advised us to start small, but start somewhere. I began teaching a college age Sunday School class and the material that was provided was called “Get Uncomfortable” and fits beautifully with what we are hoping to share in our Poverty Simulation. God is at work in me, my friend, and our church.
My life has been drastically changed. I don’t know whether to say thank you, or please pray for me . . . how about both?
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Myers is Woman’s Missionary Union director at Abbotts Creek Missionary Baptist Church in High Point. The poverty simulation was sponsored by WMU-NC.)
About poverty simulation
Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) began poverty simulations two years ago with the hope that participants would lead similar poverty simulations locally. Many participants had no idea how it really would “feel” to be poor or homeless until they went through a “model” that made them that way for 24 hours. Immediately participants are restricted to just three items from all they had brought with them.
They received “play money” and had to choose wisely how to spend it on clothing, food, shelter, crisis situations, etc. During a “world banquet” they selected a country randomly and had a “meal” typical of what people in that country would eat. They traded their clothing for clothing from a thrift shop. They engaged in a scavenger hunt where they had to learn where they could find food, lodging, bus tickets, etc. as a homeless person.
WMU-NC is planning its 2010 poverty simulation which will be in the east. Watch www.wmunc.org for updates.