WHAT IS POVERTY ANYWAY? By Danstan Wasobokha

Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan are less privileged. They are needy and marginalized people. The world should be charitable to them. The Almighty, in His good book,...


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Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan are less privileged. They are needy and marginalized people. The world should be charitable to them. The Almighty, in His good book, through his wisest servant King Solomon, tells us” Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.” Furthermore, we are assured that there will always be poor people in the land. Therefore we are commanded to be openhanded towards them who are poor and needy in land.

What is poverty anyway?

In the past two years, my engagements have given me a chance to attend a number of charity events within East and Southern Africa. These range from local governments’ outreach projects, to private organizations CSR practices, to multinational community development initiatives targeting citizens who are financially disadvantaged. What puzzles me about such noble causes is hearing one say, “We are helping the poor.” Or the other say, “We are poor.” It always begs the questions, “What kind of poor?” and “Who is not poor?”

To me, poverty is synonymous to ‘Deficit’.  As far as I’m concerned, all human beings are deficient of something. We all are poor in some aspect of life. This can be spiritual poverty, mental poverty, health poverty, lack of contentment, missing happiness, broken relationships, misused power, fear, insecurities, addictions, the list is endless. Why do we limit poverty to material possessions?

Every time someone speaks about what they believe a poor person should be, I always ask: According to who? I don’t think poverty is quantifiable. Even if it were, the most annoying thing about all of it is that it isn’t even the person who gets to decide for himself what the measure for poverty should be. It is the people around him/her who have assigned themselves that role. People with no experience whatsoever about being in his/her shoe.

Then there is the fact that the rules on this bar that the poor person is pitted against are external. Poverty is almost a measure of how a person looks. What they wear or how they talk. You see someone dirty, smelly, in torn clothes with no ‘proper’ underwear and with stench of rotting teeth near you, then you conclude that the person is poor. Or we see someone living in a grass-thatched house amidst the jungle, with no electricity, wearing traditional clothes and conclude that they are needy. If we were to quantify it, why can’t we go with things that actually matter? Like a person’s values or even how much impact the person has on society around him?

This concept of there being an imaginary box poor people should fit in to, of poverty being something that is quantifiable is false. We should stop beating our chest claiming we have helped the poor simply because we gave one food or money or clothes. We should realize that we all are poor in one way or another. We all are less privileged. We all need help. We are needy.

Consequently, we are all rich in some aspect of life. There is something that you can give that nobody else in the world can. That is why you are still alive. You can be rich in love, rich in happiness, rich in contentment, rich in health, rich in peace, rich in relationships etc. Someone, somewhere, would give up everything just to have that which you take for granted. So don’t beat yourself up based on the areas of your deficiencies. We all can give help. Help shouldn’t be limited to materialism. Nobody has it all. Thus, the need for community and humility.  Hence my prayer for the Britain’s Royal Family. To read more posts by Danstan, click HERE

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