During a presentation Tuesday evening in support of Wesley House Community Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, I spoke on the topic “From Poverty to Privilege: A Personal Pilgrimage.”
Drawing on my own experiences growing up in Appalachian poverty and now being among the privileged, I shared some of the perils and lessons of both poverty and privilege.
Among the points I made is the temptation of those with economic resources to live in bubbles of privilege, isolated from those without resources. We privileged ones have compassion perhaps and want to help; so we adopt the poor as “projects,” objects of charitable mission.
Having been “a project,” or object of charity, I know how demeaning that can feel. Nobody wants to be treated as a project, an object! We all want to be a person! The poor need friends, not project managers!
Mumve Dandala is the former presiding bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. He says, “The opposite of poverty isn’t wealth; it’s dignity!” He adds that often our mission efforts, though well intentioned, rob the recipients of their dignity.
Bryan Stevenson writes,“The opposite of poverty is not wealth. In too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice.”
The opposite of poverty isn’t wealth; it’s dignity nurtured in solidarity, friendship, and justice.