Feature photo by Shane Tretheway
Very rarely am I starstruck – rendered speechless in the presence of great figures.
I’ve interviewed D.C. politicians, senators and award-winning bands without stumbling over my words, but if you stick me in the presence of Christian activist Shane Claiborne, I’ll just stare.
Sure, I can talk to his mom about the weather, but I can barely slide my gaze six inches over to her son, someone I consider to be on the forefront of breaking the poverty cycle.
According to Business Week, over 15 percent of people live below the poverty line in the United States. That’s the highest level of poverty in our lifetimes.
Why? Because poverty is cyclical. If a parent is poor, her child will be poor. When this child grows up and starts a family, his children will be poor.
I was first introduced to this concept at a meeting for the Interagency Council on Homelessness in Washington, D.C.
I couldn’t understand how the number of families seeking shelter had doubled in the span of a week.
Fred Swan, the administrator for the Department of Human Resources, waved his hand around in a circular motion.
“They always come back,” he said with a shake of his head. “They always come back.”
Sure, that’s D.C., but Cleveland residents are nearly as impoverished.
According to city-data.com, 27.5 percent of people live below the poverty line. That’s nearly five percent more than the Tennessee state average of 22 percent.
Even as college students, we have the power to stop this. I’m not advocating giving a dollar to every man you see holding a cardboard sign, but I am asking you to not just assume that he will buy drugs with your dollar.
It’s incredibly difficult to step outside your comfort zone and give without judgments.
During his seminar about when helping hurts, United Way’s Matt Ryerson told students to develop a sort of screening process when helping people. Even if it’s just taking someone out to eat and listening to his or her story, this system of accountability will grant you the discernment necessary to help.
I think that the church is too often afraid of being taken advantage of. We don’t want to help someone because we believe that a person will use our hard-earned money to indulge in a sinful lifestyle.
Snap out of it. We can break the cycle of poverty through a lifestyle of giving.
I side with Claiborne on this one.
I am not a socialist,
he said during his question-and-answer session.
But I do believe that we should hold our possessions with open hands.