Tag Archives: poverty

Knowledge Leads to Empathy

Empathy comes from knowing the other.

I’ve been trying to cultivate some habits that help me be open to “other-ness,” people from outside my world, neighborhood, family, affinity groups, church, groups, you name it.

Can’t remember where I read the good suggestion that we try to shop in parts of town where we don’t live (and that perhaps have less than my share of affluent neighbors), so as to spread around material benefits.  And to meet others who aren’t just like me.

I like this Henri Nouwen quote from “Bread for the Journey”:

We become neighbours when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.

There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbours.

We’ve been laughing at my church lately (though we know it’s not funny) that churches can often have a “calling to the poor” that remains abstract.  A valid question is “What are the names of the poor whom you interact with?”

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What Would This Look Like Lived Out?

This morning I came across this in 2 Corinthians 8:

13Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.14At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, 15as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”

I’ve been reading some statistics today that blow me away, as support for the contention that It is safe to say that “all the wealth needed to evangelize the globe, feed and care for those in distress, and educate and support those in need is already in the hands of Christians today.” Check this out (statistics are several years old but serve for general purposes):

A Reachable Goal: “According to the Borgen Project, annual expenditures of $19 billion between now and 2015 could eliminate global starvation and malnutrition. Another $12 billion per year over that same time period could provide education for every child on earth. And an additional $15 billion each year could provide universal access to clean water and sanitation.” 

If the Rich Gave More: If affluent U.S. tax filers had donated to charity the same proportion of their assets as did their less affluent peers, they would have donated an additional $25 billion, an increase of 17 percent in the total amount of actual giving in 2003.

SOURCE: Claude Rosenberg and Tim Stone, A New Take on Tithing, Stanford Social Innovation Review (Fall 2006). 

These statistics come from a website that has been very helpful to me, and I attended a conference this fall for its host organization, Generous Giving.  The site is: http://www.generousgiving.org/page.asp?sec=4&page=335#Q3

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it) that something’s amiss when we say that “there’s nothing we can do” when in fact if these statistics are even half true, there IS something we can do.

So why don’t I?